The diet – sleep connection

As busy professionals juggling our careers, families, and other priorities, it’s easy to give up sleep time. Let’s be realistic, why sleep for eight hours when you are a master at functioning on five hours of sleep. By sleeping for five hours you just gained an extra three hours to chip away at what feels like a never ending to do list. At the moment it may feel like you are being productive but, in the long term, sleep deprivation negatively impacts health increasing risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression and stroke. The food you eat affects how well with sleep. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins has been shown to improve sleep. As you work hard to eat well and exercise to feel good, look good and live longer don’t forget sleep as it is essential for health. Here are some tips on eat your way to a good night’s sleep.

  • Skip afternoon coffee: Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you from falling asleep when taken close to bedtime. To get a good night’s sleep, avoid consuming caffeine late in the afternoon and evening. To fight the afternoon slump, try going for a 10 minute walk, drinking water, or taking a 10 – 20 minute nap to boost your energy levels
  • Avoid large meals at dinner: Though you may feel drowsy after a large meal, you may notice that when you lay in bed you are not comfortable and have a hard time falling asleep. You may also develop a heart burn after eating a large meal which will keep you up at night. Eating large meals disrupts sleep not only because you are uncomfortably full but because your digestive system slows down when asleep. For restful sleep, enjoy your dinner at least three to four hours before bed and have a light snack if you are hungry an hour before going to bed.
  • Eat tryptophan rich foods: Foods such as milk, nuts, seeds, cheese, chicken, fish, whole grains are rich in tryptophan and may help you fall asleep. How? Tryptophan is an amino acid essential for the production of serotonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy and regulates sleep-wake cycles. Pair tryptophan rich foods with complex carbohydrates as carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain. Bed time snacks rich in tryptophan and complex carbohydrates include peanut butter on whole wheat bread, low fat cheese on whole grain crackers, and whole grain cereal with milk.

Pair the nutrition recommendations above with healthy sleep habits for a good night’s sleep. Sleep tight!

Ivy Mumo
Registered Dietitian

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