Ashleigh Kidd, RD, LDN | November 2023
Ever wondered how your dinner choices can orchestrate a symphony of sweet dreams or leave you tossing and turning? Welcome to the captivating realm where nutrition meets sleep – a dynamic duo that shapes the quality of your nightly rendezvous with rest. In this blog post, we’re delving deep into the fascinating connection between what you eat and how you sleep. Get ready for insights, tips, and a sprinkle of science as we unravel the secrets to unlocking your best night’s sleep through the power of nutrition!
How sleep impacts what we eat:
As it turns out, sleep (or lack thereof) can directly affect our food and nutrition choices. This is because sleep deprivation disrupts our hormones, namely leptin & ghrelin, which regulate our hunger and fullness. As a result, we may feel hungrier than usual, less satisfied after eating, and craving foods higher in sugar. When we’re tired or consistently have disrupted sleep, our hunger/fullness cues aren’t as easy to interpret and we’re more likely to impulsively eat vs. eating mindfully.
How what we eat impacts our sleep:
Likewise, what we eat can also have a significant impact on our quality of sleep. Certain foods and beverages like caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep-wake cycles including difficulty falling asleep, and fragmented sleep and wake-ups during the night. Some studies have also shown eating a larger meal (especially higher in fat), or a snack higher in sugar close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall (and stay) asleep.
Determining what is helping/hurting your sleep:
If you’re struggling to fall/stay asleep, or noticing you’re more tired than usual, it can be helpful to keep a food and sleep diary to track your food/beverage intake (including time of day), as well as your sleep patterns. This can help you to identify if any foods/beverages may be interfering with your sleep.
Supporting sleep through nutrition:
- Eat a balanced diet consisting of protein, carbohydrates & fiber, and fat. Including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains as these foods contain nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6 (all essential for good sleep).
- Avoid eating larger meals, meals higher in fat, or snacks higher in sugar right before bed. Instead, choose a balanced snack that includes fiber and protein like an unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries.
- Limit caffeine. Ideally, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings if your sleep is affected.
- Limit/avoid alcohol intake a few hours before bedtime
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day
- Consult with your medical provider to see if a magnesium or melatonin supplement is right for you
Other ways to potentially improve your sleep:
- Avoid screen time 2-3 hours before bedtime (turn off the TV/laptop, and stop scrolling… I know it’s easier said than done!)
- If you must have a light on, try using a dim red light
- Turn your bedroom into an oasis (aka a space where you’re comfortable, ideal for sleeping), getting rid of clutter and work-related items.
- Go to bed around the same time every night (choose a time you typically get tired)
- Keep it DARK. Studies have shown, the darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. You can try a sleep mask, black out curtains, and make sure to shut off or cover anything that emits light (i.e. computer monitor).
- Studies have shown that keeping your sleep environment between 62-68 degrees will quicken the transition from light sleep into a mentally & physically restorative sleep
- For some, exercising too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep. Aim to exercise at the beginning of the day.
- Incorporate a night time meditation
Use the daily tracking log in the F45 Training App or keep a sleep journal to log your nightly routine and gain insight on how it’s affecting your recovery. Play close attention to patterns and how you feel each day to learn which “pre-bed activities” work best for you.
Sleep tracking wearable devices may also be of interest to give you the deepest data and feedback as you explore your own personal sleep performance!