Sleep and Nutrition: Learn About This Surprising Hidden Connection

December 15, 2022 8 min read

Sleep and Nutrition: Learn About This Surprising Hidden Connection

When it comes to being healthy, doctors have always advised a proper balance between three things: exercise, diet, and sleep. It’s important to keep active to make sure your body doesn’t tire easily and it keeps functioning well. Through physical activity, you can also monitor if something is wrong with your body.

To make sure your body is working alright, it has to have the right fuel. The right balance of different types of food, the right amount of nutrients, and the proper calories should be maintained in order for your body to efficiently use them and convert them into fuel.

Sleep is the third most important factor for good health. It’s when you sleep that your body repairs itself, and making sure you get a good night’s rest is the key to having enough energy for all you need to get done the next day.

We all know how interconnected these three pillars are, but did you know that a proper diet and an adequate amount of sleep are more closely tangled together than you might think?

In this article, we will discuss:


The importance of sleep

Getting enough sleep at night is important for a lot of reasons. Having enough rest allows you to be more focused and alert during the day. If you’re someone who’s got school or who works in front of a computer, you know that mentally alert and present is always needed to make sure you’re able to finish your tasks properly. Having inadequate amounts of sleep may cause you to feel sluggish during the midmorning or afternoon, and this’ll likely cause you to lose focus. Naptime becomes imminent!

Moreover, not getting enough sleep can have negative physical effects. For one thing, people who are constantly sleep-deprived have a higher risk of obesity.  Not to mention, that chronic lack of sleep increases oxidative stress, blood sugar tolerance, and insulin resistance.

A girl in bed staring sleeplessly at her alarm clock.

It tends to be quite difficult to sleep on an empty stomach. 


What is the correlation between sleep and nutrition?

What we eat and how much we eat are not only very important factors to function but also have a huge effect on our sleeping habits. Having meals at the right times and the right portions gives  energy and adds to your mental clarity, whereas unscheduled and rushed meals usually makes you feel lethargic. Have you ever experienced feeling sleepy and wanting to take a nap right after a big lunch? People who skip breakfast feel hungry around lunchtime, and this leads to eating a bit more food than what their body really needs. Feeling stuffed–especially with a meal that has a lot of carbohydrates–usually causes your body to feel slow and sleepy as your blood sugar levels rise. 

Guess what, this is only about daytime meals andsiestas. Did you know that what you consume can also affect the quality of your sleep at night? It does make sense: when you drink coffee late in the evening, don’t you have a hard time catching much-needed Zzzs? Picking the right things to eat and drink, especially for the last meal you have before going to bed, is very important as your body enters repair mode when you’re resting. You can’t effectively recharge if something’s keeping you awake or disrupting your sleep. Moreover, feeding your body right throughout the day is like giving it the right tools to recuperate at night. 

Having the right amount of vitamins and minerals means your body has what it needs to make sure your organs, bones, and muscles function properly. Having deficiencies can have huge effects on your energy levels, and may cause hiccups in how your body works and rests.

Studies have shown that a lack of vitamin B1 can cause sleep disorders. Alaska Sleep explains that this is because vitamin B1 and B2 help in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin helps control your sleep-wake cycle or the circadian rhythm. Lack of melatonin may disrupt the cycle, and may reduce your body’s efficiency in repairing itself. It may also throw a wrench in your body’s eating and sleeping habits, which in turn can cause more physical issues. 

Eating a lot of fatty food and lacking exercise can lead to obesity, which can cause sleep apnea, the American Heart Association warns. This condition usually manifests itself with loud snoring due to the fact that your breathing becomes irregular, and will stop at times before restarting again. 

A dish of broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, and vegan steak.
What you eat, especially before sleeping, plays a surprisingly big part in the quality of sleep you get. 


What is the best diet for sleep?

Now that we know that the food we eat during the day can influence the quality of sleep we get and how our quality of sleep can affect the kind of food we eat, what are the right types of food you should eat in order to get a good night’s sleep?

The answer is fairly simple: the right diet and the right portions of the traditional go, grow, and glow foods can help you sleep well at night. However, depending on the situation, certain diets can actually offer deeper and more satisfying rest.

Did you know that a gluten-free diet (GFD) can help kids sleep deeper and with less interruptions? A study featured in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that out. Reducing gluten in children can be quite beneficial for them, even if it’s just replacing their snacks with gluten-free snacks. On the other hand, children with celiac disease may experience the sleep benefits of GFD, but at this point more studies are still needed for conclusive results.  

Keto diet and sleep have mixed outcomes. If you’re new to keto, you may experience days of insomnia as your serotonin and melatonin levels fall, according to Insider. This is because the keto diet has very few carbohydrates, which are needed to produce serotonin and melatonin. The adjustment curve doesn’t last, however, because eventually those who do the keto diet find that they sleep better after theyget used to less carbs. It’s said to be attributed to the effect the diet has on adenosine, which is a chemical that plays a huge role in sleep regulation. 

It’s important to remember that the keto diet, which is usually prescribed to those with epilepsy, should only be done under the supervision of a doctor as it has very high fat content, and can cause heart issues in individuals who don’t really need a keto diet to begin with. 

The connection between a low-carb diet and sleep problems is that the former may potentially resolve the latter. Registered dietician Kelly Schmidt says that women with obesity and metabolic issues can benefit from lessening carbs, since it can help balance out hormonal issues. A low-carb diet can also lower blood sugar levels, which is important for people with type 2 diabetes. Schmidt adds that a low-carb diet can result in “better sleep, mental clarity, and increased satiety.” Just remember that you still need carbohydrates for energy, so barring any conditions, regulating your intake is healthier than completely omitting them from your diet. 

You can also choose to add specific food items in your meals to give your sleep hormones a boost. Adding cherries as a dessert after a meal can supplement your body with natural melatonin and serotonin. These are the enzymes that aid your body in getting better quality sleep, and they’re found in pills typically taken for sleep-related problems. Nuts like almonds and pistachios are also rich in melatonin, while pumpkin seeds are packed with minerals like zinc, magnesium, and tryptophan which also improve sleep. 


Does an unhealthy diet cause sleep disorders? 

There are “good” fats, like those that come from plants, nuts, and certain types of fish. On the other hand, there are also “bad” fats, which are trans fats that usually come from processed food

Having a diet that consists mainly of trans fats and saturated fats—or food cooked together or using them—won’t only harm your body but also promote lack of sleep, according to a study featured in the U.S. NIH National Library of Medicine. Unchecked, they may lead to conditions like sleep apnea or insomnia. These conditions reduce the amount of sleep you get at night, and more likely let you only sleep lightly; that is, the amount of time in deep sleep or REM sleep is reduced. People who easily wake up might just be used to that kind of reaction, but it may also be a symptom of a much more serious condition.

A woman having a hard time sleeping properly in bed.
The body is an interconnected web of systems. If you're able to improve your diet, you can expect other aspects to also get better.


How to improve sleep and nutrition

Since a good and healthy diet is the key to getting good quality sleep, making sure your body gets the right nutrients is a must.

Foods high in processed sugar leads to insomnia and increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Make sure that cakes, pies, cookies, and candy are reserved as treats—eaten only every once in a while—as opposed to being a big part of your daily diet. If you’re feeling snacky, opt for healthy alternatives to sweets or choose something savory altogether, such as vegan whole food snacks. Mushroom chips are a good option, and The Daily Good has some delectable flavors you can choose from! 

Most people can’t function without a mug of coffee first thing in the morning, but try not to make it a substitute for water. Having coffee after lunch can increase your chances of not being able to sleep on time thanks to the caffeine. 

Caffeine can stay and provide its effects to your body for a long time, and too much may hurt your chances of getting a good night’s rest. Most people believe that they feel a caffeine crash—getting sleepy when the effects of coffee wear off—and hurry to make another cup to make sure they can still function at their best throughout the day. This can be a sign of a psychological dependence on the stuff, and you should consult with a nutritionist or dietician to find ways to help you wean off.

Eating light meals at night can also help in improving the quality of your sleep. Having some clear soup or a salad can help you feel full in the early evening and this’ll tide you over well into the next day. Also, be sure to avoid drinking too much water at night, especially right before you go to bed. Nobody likes their sleep disturbed by a much-needed trip to the bathroom.

You can also take a warm shower at night an hour before you jump into bed. It’s generally cooler at night so getting your body temperature slightly up and then having it lowered by the cool air in your room will help you get drowsy. That’s a little hack you can use to your advance via the quick change in temperature. 

Finally, try to lessen the amount of time you spend facing a screen at night. Whether you’re looking at your monitor or browsing your phone in the evenings, make sure that some time before you go to bed, you spend without that little hunk of metal in front of you. Instead of browsing social media sites, try to read a book or listen to music instead on your way to falling asleep. Lessening stimuli can help condition your brain into triggering sleep responses and it’ll allow you to doze off faster.

Make better food choices by going with vegan snack ideas that are both nutritious and delicious! Check out The Daily Good’s offerings below.

Best Mushroom Chips