Sleep & Food: How Your Diet Affects Your Sleep

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Several factors affect the quality of sleep you get. External factors include your bed, light in the room, noise coming into the room, and your sleep partner. This is what we can your sleep environment.

Internal factors include the kind and amount of exercise you get, your health, and your diet. Of all these, diet and exercise seem to affect sleep the most. While not everyone gets to exercise, everyone eats, making your diet the most critical thing you can change to get a better night’s sleep.

What Causes Poor Quality Sleep

Eating an imbalanced diet full of sugar and saturated fats with little fiber negatively affects sleep quality. Consuming caffeine, especially in the evening, further compounds the situation. Furthermore, overeating close to your bedtime leads to discomfort as you sleep. The best you’ll manage is light and less restorative sleep.

Your body needs sleep to repair tissue, de-stress the brain, rest the body and prepare it for the next day. Therefore, the state of your body during the day affects how it will behave at night. For example, people who exercise well during the day report better sleep than those who are sedentary.

Those who give the body what it needs to rest, repair, and replenish will encourage better quality sleep for those activities to occur. Denying your body a balanced diet only frustrates it, leading to poor sleep.

Bad food choices such as energy drinks and high-fat foods also lead to weight gain. Obesity is linked to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, besides general discomfort during sleep. Therefore, poor quality sleep is indicative of a more significant health concern in the long term. 

Remedy: Healthy Diet and Better Sleep Quality

Since quality sleep is critical to your health and wellbeing, you need to take steps to improve how you sleep. Sleep hygiene involves preparing yourself for the best rest possible each night. Let us look at it from a diet perspective.

Watch Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a stimulant that increases adrenaline secretion and inhibits the production of hormones that induce sleep. You may need it to remain alert in the morning, but you need to watch your intake in the evenings. If you’re new to consuming caffeine, you’ll be more sensitive to it and thus feel its effects for longer. Even if you can build a tolerance for caffeine, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be watchful. You are likely to consume more of it, thus feeling the effects for much longer.

It’s worth noting that caffeine isn’t present only in coffee. You’ll find caffeine in black, green, and white tea, energy drinks, and most soft drinks. Caffeine is also present in chocolate and any foods with chocolate as an ingredient. Certain protein and energy bars and pre-workout beverages also contain caffeine.

Therefore, you need to read ingredient lists of such foods to ensure you’re not consuming caffeine near your bedtime. Caffeine stays in your body for about six hours. Imagine the havoc it will wreak on your sleep quality.

Drink Responsibly

Alcohol is fun to drink, as long as you do it right, and it’s why we’re not stopping you. Heavy drinking is harmful to your health and worse for your sleep. You may immediately fall asleep after a night out drinking, but you’ll spend the rest of your night in light REM sleep. A good sleep cycle consists of a bit of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and more deep sleep when the body repairs and rebuilds. A good diet and sleep also cause natural serotonin production.

Therefore, you need to avoid drinking too much and drinking close to your bedtime. Instead, drink in moderation, and avoid daily drinking. Building up a tolerance only means excessive consumption later on, with all the associated drawbacks.

Watch Your Sugar Intake

Sugar, like caffeine, acts as a stimulant by increasing your energy levels. However, such energy boosts from excess sugar end up in crashes. Crashing only encourages you to keep an inconsistent diet, eat more sugary foods, and easily fall into the caffeine temptation. Repeating that cycle will have you tossing and turning at night.

When you consume little to no sugar, you’ll easily regulate your blood sugar levels. Therefore, you’ll make better food choices and find it easier to stick to a healthy diet. This decision leads to better sleep.

Avoid Extra Spicy and High Fat Foods

Avoid such foods especially close to bedtime, since they heavily task the digestion process. Aim to eat such foods during the day and do so in moderation. Eating extra spicy foods too frequently will irritate your stomach, cause bad breath, and even lead to ulcers. Interchange spicy foods with more gentle options and avoid eating them before bedtime.

Observe Portion Control

Heavy meals also cause discomfort and prolonged digestion, thus negatively affecting your sleep. While you need to avoid eating close to bedtime, you need to avoid overeating altogether. Overworking your digestive system before bedtime means you’ll sleep poorly. Additionally, it encourages weight gain, which has negative health consequences and further affects your sleep.

To maintain the right portions, observe your metabolism. Some people quickly digest food, while others take more time. A good rule is to eat more in the morning and decrease portions as evening approaches. If possible, go to sleep on an almost empty stomach.

Choose Your Snacks Well

While you shouldn’t overeat before sleeping, you shouldn’t go to bed hungry. An empty stomach means you’ll be uncomfortable during sleep, take too much water thinking you’re thirsty, or eat late at night. Some snacks can improve the quality of your sleep. For example, bananas contain serotonin, and berries contain melatonin, both critical for sleep. Serotonin prevents excess REM sleep while melatonin regulates the sleep cycle.

Establish a Routine Around Food

Routine helps condition your body in specific ways. For example, sleeping at particular times and in the best possible environment improves sleep quality. You can do the same with your meals.

Aim to eat at least three hours before bedtime to give your body ample digestion time. Eat equal portions daily and stick to a healthy food diet. It’s important to hydrate well for proper digestion and to prevent dehydration during sleep. Your body will naturally appreciate the pattern and secrete hormones necessary for deep rest.


While our focus in this article is on your diet, exercise is a contributory factor. As you make changes to improve your sleep quality, you’ll need discipline and motivation to break old habits. Exercising helps fatigue your body, encouraging you to fall asleep faster and increase sleep duration. 

In addition, your body will demand more healthy foods. As your physique improves and your stamina increases, you’ll be motivated to stick to a healthy diet. Furthermore, as you lose weight, you’ll eliminate all sleep issues associated with being overweight. 

The motivation to work out harder the next day will push you to set aside more time to sleep well. Good quality sleep will be the reward for sticking to a healthy diet with time.

Eat a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is indeed ideal for improving your sleep. But what is a balanced diet? A balanced diet is a meal plan that contains all the nutrients necessary for your body to function correctly. The diet also presents those nutrients in their most useful form. Your diet should always contain these seven nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

The best sources of these nutrients are fresh fruits, whole grains, fresh vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, legumes, and tap water. There are plenty of choices in these food groups to cater to the needs of all manner of eaters. For example, vegans will find plenty of plant-based proteins to ensure they don’t lack a critical meal component. 

Final Words: How Food and Drink Affects Your Sleep

Your diet is an integral part of your health and wellbeing. While diet, sleep and exercising determine your overall health, diet is the first and most critical factor. Your activity and diet affect the quality of your sleep. You can minimize the hours you sleep as long as you don’t deprive yourself of sleep, and you’ll be fine. But you cannot maintain a poor diet and not feel the effects. Therefore, a balanced diet leads to better health and helps you sleep better. Better sleep is critical to your overall health; thus, the cyclical impact of the diet you keep.

The National Sleep Foundation also emphasizes on healthy adults getting enough sleep to promote better sleep patterns. Research shows poor sleep quality also might increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Therefore, you should focus on better sleep cycles.


Rebekah Carter
Rebekah Carter

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated writer and researcher of sleep and relaxation solutions. She has years of experience testing out mattresses, pillows, and other products

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