Ask your physician about any number of ailments and diet changes are likely among the first things they’ll suggest. But did you know the case can be the same for sleep? Most often we hear about exercise, stress management, and good sleep habits when it comes to improving sleep quality, but the foods you eat may have a bigger impact than you realize.
In this post, we’ll discuss the connection between diet and sleep and offer up some ideas on food for sleep. Read on for an in-depth look at foods that help you sleep better (and why), or use the links below to skip to the sections you’re most interested in.
Diet and nutrition play an important role in nearly every aspect of your health, including the duration and quality of your sleep. But how and why does your diet impact your slumber? There are two main factors:
When you eat:According to one study published by the Journal for Clinical Sleep Medicine, food intake during “nocturnal periods,” otherwise known as dinner or a late-night snack, had a negative effect on sleep quality. The study also demonstrated that women were more likely to experience a disruption in sleep patterns when they ate late at night.
What you eat:The National Sleep Foundation suggests that what you choose to eat may also have a positive or negative effect on sleep quality. Some foods, like fatty or protein-rich ingredients, may be harder to digest before bedtime, while complex carbs are easier to digest.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of the connection between nutrition and rest, let’s take a closer look at which foods help you sleep and which may have the opposite effect.
What Types of Food are Good for Sleep?
Everyone wants a good night’s rest in order to feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead, however, that’s not always a reality. In addition to practicing good sleep habits, learning which foods help you sleep can improve the quality of your slumber.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best ingredients for a great night’s sleep.
Kiwis are an excellent source of nutrition, with a high volume of Vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and folate. In addition to their nutritional value, kiwi may also benefit the quality of your sleep.
In a study by Taipei Medical University, a group of 24 subjects consumed two kiwis an hour before bedtime each night, for four weeks. Researchers found that the total sleep time and sleep efficiency were significantly increased (approx. 13.4% and 5.41%). While the study suggested that more research is needed to identify why kiwi is a sleep-inducing food, researchers hypothesized that the fruit’s abundant antioxidants may be a contributing factor.
Food can be a very effective natural medicine to treat ailments, like poor sleep. One Chinese study examined which foods help you sleep and they found cherries had some impressive health benefits. In fact, drinking a glass of tart cherry juice before bed can boost melatonin production, promoting better sleep and long-term prevention against sleep disorders.
Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese, contain the amino acid tryptophan, which promotes melatonin and serotonin production. Melatonin regulates the sleep and wake cycle, while serotonin also regulates sleep, among other things like mood and appetite.
Tryptophan is most known for its presence in Thanksgiving turkey, sending many diners into a post-dinner haze. According to one study, milk can have a similar effect. The study found that older adults who consumed milk, yogurt, and cheese and engaged in leisure-time physical activity, had fewer issues falling asleep.
Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and trout offer a lot of nutritional value. They’re rich in omega-3, can help reduce inflammation, and contain substantial Vitamin D. According to a study conducted by the University of Bergen, Norway, Vitamin D found in fatty fish may be beneficial to sleep.
In the study, 95 males were divided into a fish or control group—those in the fish group were fed salmon three times per week over a 6-month period. The control group was fed a rotation of alternative options, such as poultry or red meat. Participants in the fish group were reported to not only have better quality sleep but also improved daily functioning. Ultimately, researchers suggested that the sleep and restfulness the fish group experienced was likely related to Vitamin D and heart rate variability (HRV) changes.
If you’re torn between bread, noodles, and rice as your pre-bedtime meal, this study from Japan may change your mind. During the study, participants were given a dietary self-assessment where they input their intake of bread, noodles, and rice. Individuals who had a higher consumption of rice experienced good sleep, those that consumed more noodles were more likely to have poor sleep, and researchers could not find a significant relationship between bread intake and sleep.
Which Foods Have a Negative Impact on Sleep?
Now that you know about the foods that help you sleep, it’s time to talk about the worst foods for sleep. According to a 2014 study, the following foods can negatively affect sleep duration and quality:
Sugar:Individuals with high-sugar diets are more likely to experience insomnia.
Protein/carbohydrates:Protein and carbohydrates help your body create energy, but may result in shorter sleep or difficulty falling asleep.
Caffeine:Excessive caffeine consumption (>500 mg per day) can lead to insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, and anxiety.
As you work to improve your sleep, consider eliminating or reducing your intake of these foods with guidance from your doctor.
How and When to Eat to Better Promote Sleep
As we mentioned earlier in this post, what you eat is just one way to promote sleep. When you eat can also positively or negatively affect the quality of your sleep. Let’s take a closer look at how timing your meals and late-night snacks can make an impact.
If you’re hoping to improve your sleep, you may want to start scheduling your snacks well before bedtime. In fact, one study out of Brazil found that eating dinner late or consuming a late-night snack had a negative impact on the sleep quality (REM, sleep latency, wake after sleep onset) of healthy individuals. The study also found that women were more likely to experience sleep issues than men when eating late at night.
Why does eating late disrupt sleep? While the study from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo suggested more research be done, other sources suggest that the digestive process is to blame. After you eat, your body works hard to digest the contents while you’re trying to rest. Digestive activity may make it harder to fall asleep or get a restful night’s sleep.
To avoid food-related sleep disruptions, try not to eat too close to your bedtime, allowing approximately 2 hours to digest before bed. If you find yourself in need of a late-night snack, opt for one of the sleep-inducing foods mentioned above.
Sleep is an important part of our health, so it’s wise to take steps to improve the quality of your rest. With this information, you can prioritize foods that help you sleep and time your snacking strategically.
MedCline has a suite of products designed to help you sleep better. From Therapeutic Body Pillows to our Acid Reflux Relief System, we’re here to help you get the most out of those Zzz’s. Head over to our blog to learn more about our products, sleep science, and more.
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MedCline was founded in 2011 by Carl Melcher, M.D, who was a life-long sufferer of GERD. Dr. Melcher wanted to help the millions of GERD patients with a natural treatment alternative utilizing positional therapy. Since development, the Reflux Relief System has been validated in 7 clinical trials. Aiming to help other medical conditions with positional therapy, MedCline has also developed a Shoulder Relief System for those who suffer with chronic shoulder pain at night. Both MedCline Relief Systems are providing much-needed relief for those suffering from nocturnal acid reflux and/or nighttime shoulder pain to get quality, restorative sleep leading to a higher health-related quality of life.