The Link Between Diet and Sleep
Learn how to improve your diet for better quality of sleep and keys to both weight management and an overall a healthy lifestyle.
Sleep quality is one thing that is often overlooked when thinking about how to manage your weight and health, but it is one of the most important factors contributing to a healthy lifestyle. Good quality sleep can be defined as getting enough REM and slow wave sleep (SWS) during the night, without difficulty falling or staying asleep. This kind of sleep can help regulate your hormones, improve your mood, and help the body properly rest and recover from the activities of the day. These are all crucial aspects to successful weight management, as well.
Sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep can hinder one’s ability to lose weight. In addition to a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, it is one of the main pillars of optimal health. If you feel like you have tried everything to lose weight but still aren’t seeing your ideal results, your sleep quality could be the answer.
In this article, we discuss how diet and sleep are interrelated. There are lots of ways to improve your sleep quality through your diet and daily routine. With better sleep comes better progress towards weight loss. Do not dismiss the importance of sleep when it comes to these goals, and consider sleep as part of a wholistic approach to weight loss.
- Eat a balanced diet.
This sounds a little cliché, but it is one of the most important points to make here. A balanced diet means that your body is getting all of the macro and micronutrients it needs to function properly, including regulating your sleep and waking cycles. A balanced diet places emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, good quality protein, healthy fats and unrefined complex carbs such as whole grains, if they are part of your diet, at every meal. If you are unable to get all of these food groups into your meals, be sure to choose healthy snacks that will balance out the other things you’ve eaten.
One way to track and determine if you are eating a balanced diet is to record your macronutrients with every meal. If you use meal planning or carb counting techniques, you are probably already familiar with how to do this. If not, there are plenty of apps for smartphones that allow you to input what you are eating, and they will tell you the nutrient break down and track your daily macros. These insights can be useful and interesting, even if you are not actively trying to lose weight.
- Consume enough B vitamins.
B vitamins are extremely important for brain function and sleep quality. This is because they support the body in producing optimal levels of serotonin and melatonin, which are hormones that help regulate your sleep cycles. A lack of vitamin B6 has been linked to symptoms of depression and insomnia; both of which can affect your physical and mental health and make it more difficult to lose weight.
You could supplement B vitamins in your diet if it is most convenient for you. However, we recommend doing some research or to consult a physician beforehand to learn how much you need.
Here are some foods you can also add to your diet to increase your levels of B vitamins:
- Fish and shellfish
- Whole grains
Also consider these all-natural products in our beverage category that are enriched with B Vitamins for healthy hydration: Chase Sugar-Free Cocktail Mixers and Farmaroot Natural Energy Drinks with Ginseng + B Vitamins!
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods.
Antioxidants have several powerful health benefits, including the ability to improve sleep quality and reduce the negative side effects of getting too little or poor-quality sleep. They have shown to: improve sleep quality for people with sleep apnea, protect other hormone levels (such as testosterone) from dropping due to sleep deprivation, and can even prevent memory loss or brain-fog related to poor quality sleep. These specific effects are mostly related to the intake of antioxidant Vitamin E, which can be found in foods such as nuts and seeds, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and soybean oil.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant with many sleep-related benefits. Vitamin C plays a role in boosting immune function, cardiovascular health and the production of collagen. On its own and in combination with other antioxidants, Vitamin C can reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea and related heart conditions, as well as improve the length and quality of your sleep. Low levels of Vitamin C have been linked to more frequent night disturbances and trouble staying asleep, which can develop into more severe sleeping disorders over time. Vitamin C can be found abundantly in citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, chili peppers, strawberries and kiwi.
- Get enough vitamin D!
Vitamin D is one of the least expensive and most important vitamins to consume, yet many people are still either lacking in it or completely deficient. Since vitamin D is not very bioavailable in our foods, we must get it from sun exposure or supplements.
Depending on where you live and how much time you spend outdoors, you might not be getting enough vitamin D from the sun (aim for at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight on uncovered skin – don’t forget SPF!). If you choose to supplement vitamin D instead, is recommended to consume 4000 IUs each day. This daily recommended dose of vitamin D can support better immune function, stronger bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D also helps regulate our circadian clocks, reduces the risk and severity of sleep apnea and promotes longer sleep duration.
- Limit alcohol.
This one should be a no-brainer for most health-conscious people. Although occasional consumption of alcohol in moderation is fine, it is important to understand how alcohol affects the brain and body, especially when it comes to sleep quality. Alcohol causes your body’s internal temperature to rise, which can keep you awake at night or cause sleep disturbances. Alcohol also blocks REM sleep, which is essential for brain function, learning, memories and regulating your mood. REM sleep also helps reduce the production of leptin, a hormone involved in the regulation of appetite, food intake and body weight. If you are overweight, you may have developed leptin resistance, which can cause overeating and rapid weight gain. Reducing leptin levels by getting more REM sleep could help you regain your leptin sensitivity.
- Cut sugar and manage carbohydrates.
Carbs can be a good thing, in moderation, when it comes to sleep. On one hand, they have been shown to increase levels of the amino acid, tryptophan, that is then converted into serotonin, a hormone that improves sleep and produces feelings of relaxation, well-being and happiness. However, consuming too many carbs can cause sleep disturbances from spikes in blood sugar levels. Carbs should be limited, especially 4 hours before bed to reduce these effects. While it is best to avoid snacking altogether before bedtime for your best night’s sleep, if you do find yourself craving dessert or a snack at nighttime, be sure that it contains some protein or fat to balance out the glycemic index of your meal.
- Eat lots of fibre-rich foods.
Eating fibre-rich foods has been linked to more slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is another important sleep stage like REM sleep. SWS has many restorative and reparative functions, which are essential for weight loss as well as workout recovery and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.
Fibre prevents spikes in blood sugar levels, and a raise in blood sugar levels can reduce the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), as a result, this can cause sleep disturbances or make it harder to fall asleep. Fibre also keeps you full, so eating lots of fibre-rich foods at dinner can help prevent snacking before bed that can interfere with sleep quality. Adding more fibre to your diet along with reducing sugar and other non-fibre carbohydrates can allow for more continuous, undisturbed sleep that has overall positive effects on weight loss health.
Also check out SmartSweets Sugar-Free Gummies that are high in fibre and low in sugar – perfect for snacking on any time of day!
- Reduce caffeine.
Another no-brainer here! Caffeine does not actually keep you awake, instead, it blocks messages telling your brain that you are tired and need rest. This can cause you to get less than the optimal amount of sleep and upset your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
If you are someone who enjoys frequent coffees, colas and chocolate bars to keep you energized throughout the day, try cutting back to just one or two a day. Gradually, you can cut them out of your diet completely or replace them with healthier alternatives. A light workout or nutritious snack can also provide you with the energy boost you are looking for.
Remember that it takes time to make major changes in your diet. It’s best to be patient if you do not see immediate results. This is especially true if your circadian rhythm has been disrupted from caffeine and other substances for a while; it will take time to adjust back naturally.
- Eat at the same time every day.
This is one tip that is very useful not only for better quality sleep, but also for improved digestion and better weight management. Irregular eating patterns have been studied and shown to be strongly associated with poor sleep quality, which has negative consequences for weight loss as discussed previously. Eating at the same time or within similar time frames each day allows your body to regulate its resource expenditure patterns and its circadian rhythm. Try to find an eating pattern that works for you and follow it consistently for a few days or weeks. As your body gets used to this new routine, observe how it affects your sleep quality as well as your weight loss progress, if applicable. Remember to be mindful of your eating pattern on the weekends, when travelling or whenever you find yourself outside of your normal routine, too.
We hope you enjoyed this article and learning about the relationship between sleep and diet. If you would like to share your thoughts, comments or experiences with the rest of our community, be sure to head over to our Facebook page or you can tag us on Instagram. We also love to stay connected with our Weekly Newsletters for updates on the latest products to our inventory and special sales. We also love to hear your Google Review feedback!