Sleep is critical to our everyday functioning as human beings, and is integrally connected with another essential part of daily life: eating. What and when you eat and drink can actually affect your quantity and quality of sleep. And a lack of sleep may have an impact on your appetite and cravings throughout the day, which can in turn lead to weight gain.

If a person is sleep deprived, a cascade of events happens inside the body causing an imbalance of hormones. Leptin is a hormone in the body that signals to the brain that it feels satisfied or full. Ghrelin is another hormone that signals hunger. When someone isn’t getting enough sleep, leptin levels are lower and ghrelin levels are higher, leaving a person feeling hungrier and less satisfied throughout the day. In some studies the sleep deprived report cravings for sweets and fatty foods. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to have higher body mass index (BMI) than those who do get their zzzz’s.

This May Help

Regular exercise

Being physically active promotes sleep and improves quality of sleep.

Tryptophan

This amino acid is found in protein foods and causes sleepiness. Because carbohydrates help make tryptophan more available to the brain, an ideal bedtime snack has both carbs and protein. For example:

  • Cheese and crackers
  • Cereal and milk
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Granola and yogurt
  • ½ turkey sandwich

Warm milk

Warm liquids in the stomach can promote relaxation and assist in falling asleep. But warm milk is particularly sleep friend: milk has carbs and tryptophan. Warm milk also can have a positive psychological effect: it may remind you of growing up and having milk before bed as a child so it could help promote falling asleep

Regular sleep and eating schedule

Staying on a regular schedule during the week and on weekends can help to body find a routine to promote good sleep.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that regulates sleepiness. It’s also found in some foods, including:

  • tart cherries
  • sunflower seeds
  • flax seeds

Herbal Teas

There are a number of herbal remedies that can help promote sleep, either in the form of a tea or a supplement. These include:

  • Chamomile
  • Passionflower
  • St. John’s Wort

This May Hurt

Caffeine

Caffeine can be felt in the body within 15 minutes of ingesting.  It acts as a mild stimulant, leaving someone feeling awake and energized. It’s essential to avoid caffeinated foods and beverages six to eight hours before bedtime. Some sources of caffeine to be wary of are:

  • Coffee
  • Caffeinated Tea
  • soft drinks
  • energy drinks
  • chocolate

Alcohol 

While alcohol may make you drowsy and help you to fall asleep, it also dehydrates you, which can disrupt sleep later in the night, and prevent high quality sleep.

Large meals 

Eating a large meal close to bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep, as your body is working overtime to digest.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Triggers

A backflow of acid into the esophagus called reflux (or GERD) can cause nighttime heartburn, coughing, choking which can lead to insomnia and poor sleep quality. If you experience reflux often, pay attention to which foods trigger your symptoms, and then make sure to avoid these foods near bedtime. 

Overweight or obese 

Carrying extra pounds, especially in the stomach and neck can compromise breathing leading, to sleep apnea and low quality sleep. Sleep apnea has been linked to fatigue and increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke

Pay close attention to what, when, and how much you are eating to promote a better night’s sleep.  The payoff will be more energy throughout the day!