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Does nutrition affect your sleep?

20 Mar, 2023
Jürgen Swinnen

Let’s be clear, it’s probably obvious too, but the answer is clear: there is a link between nutrition and sleep. Nutrition is the basis for our body’s energy levels.

If we have poor dietary habits, by eating too one-sidedly or too little, for example, the body’s energy level will often be low as well. That person experiences more regular daytime fatigue.

Anyone who has gone to sleep on an empty stomach before knows that this can really keep you awake. But there are many other influences that nutrition has on your sleep.

The influence of nutrition on your sleep

The main main rule is that healthy eating also leads to healthy sleep. A balanced diet ensures that you get all the right nutrients for a healthy body and for healthy sleep.

Of course, what you eat or drink immediately before you sleep also has a big impact on how well you sleep. The following things are best avoided before you go to sleep:

  • Caffeine, as in energy drinks, coffee, or tea.
  • Spicy food
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine

In addition, it is important not to eat too much more 3 hours before bedtime. In fact, a large meal right before bed can disrupt your sleep. A steady rhythm in what you eat and drink before bed can improve your sleep.

There are certain foods that make for better sleep because they help create the right hormones that make for a good night’s sleep. Although the influence is limited, so certainly don’t overdo it. These include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bananas
  • Dairy
  • Fish and poultry
  • Sour cherries

The right balance of nutrition

Our bodies produce hormones that impact our sleep. These hormones are produced sufficiently in normal circumstances , at least if you also eat a healthy diet.

Consider, for example, the protein tryptophan, a protein found in eggs, rice, milk and chicken, among others. Tryptophan stimulates the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Or vitamin B6, found in whole grain foods, potatoes and bananas, for example, is another such substance that stimulates melatonin production. Vitamin B12, a vitamin we get from animal products such as: eggs, meat, milk and fish, for example, also has an impact on feeling rested during the day.

People with glutensitivity or celiac disease are more likely to suffer from excessive fatigue. Dutch pulmonologist Reinier De Groot points to American research showing that 61% of patients who are glutensensitive have sleep problems.

Although, at the same time, he says that too little research has been done and no consistent answers appear to be able to be provided by science yet.

For now, one thinks of increased mental agitation as an explanation or possibly poorer absorption in the intestines could cause a deficiency of neurotransmitters and would therefore disrupt the immune system.

Also read,“Is a box spring good for your back?

Nutrition and the circadian rhythm

Another link can be found in circadian rhythm. For example, our body temperature is controlled through this rhythm and is directly linked to sleep. In fact, to sleep, the “core body temperature” (CBT), the temperature inside our body, will drop slightly.

has body temperature impact sleep

A heavy meal late at night can firmly throw a spanner in the works. The faster metabolism that results will just raise your body temperature, making it harder for you to find sleep. And when you do finally manage to catch sleep, the chances of waking up during the night because of digestive problems are pretty high.

People who struggle with obesity also often experience sleep problems such as snoring and sleep apnea. Although we know by now that obesity is not influenced by diet alone, there is no denying this link especially in our overindulged society with sugars, salts and fats.

In fact, it has since been shown that if you sleep less than you should, you will get fatter. This has everything to do with the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin increases your sense of hunger while the signal that you are satisfied comes from leptin. So in short, it is fairly easy to deduce that an imbalance of these two hormones will cause you to get fat.

What does science say about eating and sleeping?

American researcher Eve Van Cauter has been researching the link between sleep and eating for some time. Among other things, she showed that people who sleep shorter can’t control their appetite as well as people who sleep normally.

They simply never have enough because the hormones are imbalanced. In neurologist Matthew Walker’s book “Sleep,” he mentions her statement “even in the greatest abundance the sleepless body proclaims famine” (p. 210, Sleep, M. Walker)

In addition, he aptly brings up that you have less energy when you are tired. And so you tend to move less because you’re tired … and … An ideal scenario for the so-called vicious cycle.

science sleep and nutrition what do they have in common

Hold on, because we’re not done yet, because Dr. Van Cauter’s research found that what you eat is also linked to sleep deprivation. People with sleep deprivation are more likely to reach for quick sugars in sweets and complex carbohydrates such as bread and pasta.

Follow-up research by Matthew Walker’s team revealed that sleep deprivation causes the areas in our brain’s prefrontal cortex that we use to make sensible and rational choices to become inactive. Whereas the brain regions with more primitive needs and drives just responded more strongly, causing the subjects to consume many more calories.

Fortunately, this situation recovered fairly quickly when the subjects returned to a normal sleep pattern.

Does nutrition affect your sleep: Conclusion

Sleep is the foundation of a healthy life. But good sleep also depends on a good diet. There are also some things that are better to avoid before going to sleep.

Most Frequently Asked Questions:

You can consume certain foods that provide better sleep such as acidic
cherries, nuts and seeds, bananas, or dairy.

Caffeine, alcohol, and too much sugar negatively affect your sleep. But also to
little water or eating spicy foods can cause you to sleep poorly.

You can drink a number of things before bed such as chamomile tea, valerian root
tea, or mint tea. Avoid tea with caffeine.