It’s fair to say that at some time or another, most of us have experienced the effects that some foods have on our energy levels.
Whether it’s a shot of espresso, an energy drink or a massive Christmas dinner, foods can have both a positive and negative effect on our bodies. Couple this with the recent interest in nutrition, and many people are turning to their diets to not only look better but sleep better.
Research into the connection between sleep and nutrition is in its infancy; however, numerous studies confirm the correlation between a healthy diet and a good night’s sleep.
Nutrition and sleep: what’s the connection?
The connection between sleep and nutrition is complex and ever-evolving. Although researchers have a wealth of knowledge on both topics, making a connection between the two is challenging due to the limitless amount of variables.
For instance, digestion, genes and metabolism play a role in how certain foods affect people. Food that might negatively affect one person may indeed help another. Likewise, with sleep, some people are productive on 5 to 6 hours of sleep while others closer to 8 or 9.
What research has found, though, is that a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is critical for healthy bodily function. Diets that lack these nutrients have been shown to negatively impact our sleep patterns.
Can sleep deprivation impact your food choices?
Getting the optimal amount of sleep is essential for physical and cognitive health and making food choices. Sleep deprivation can cause brain fog, subsequently affecting people’s ability to choose the best foods for their health.
Numerous studies have found that people who sleep less are much more likely to make bad choices, especially regarding their food. Furthermore, these same people have a greater tendency to choose fast foods and foods loaded with sugar and carbohydrates.
Top five foods for a good nights sleep
Here are 5 scientifically proven foods that will not only improve your health and well-being but your sleep too.
Nuts provide a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, all of which are needed for a good night’s sleep. Additionally, certain nuts are rich in magnesium, tryptophan, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.
Almonds: Researchers have found that low levels of magnesium are linked to difficulty sleeping. Almonds are a rich source of magnesium, melatonin and zinc, all critical for getting some shut-eye.
Walnuts: Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to promote sleep, making walnuts the perfect bedtime snack.
Pistachios: Pistachios contain the highest levels of melatonin compared to other nuts.
Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are jam-packed with magnesium, zinc and tryptophan.
2Tart cherries and juice
Did you know there are more than 100 types of cherries? Cherries contain high levels of vitamin C and potassium. Similar to grains, cherries are also categorised into two groups, sweet and tart.
When it comes to the cherry battle, tart cherries come out on top. Research shows that consuming tart cherries or ‘tart cherry juice’ may actually improve sleep.
The same study also suggested that those people who consumed tart cherries slept longer and ‘hit the sack’ quicker. Tart Cherries may also increase the chance of uninterrupted sleep.
Whole grains are excellent sources of melatonin and zinc, two of the most powerful sleep-promoting nutrients out there.
Cracked wheat or ‘bulgur’
Whole wheat flour
You need to be careful with grains, though, because they are classified as either ‘whole’ or ‘refined’. Whole grains keep the whole “kernel,” while refined grains remove the skin to increase shelf-life. The skin is where most of the essential nutrients are found.
Research suggests that because milk is a rich source of vitamin D and tryptophan, it may help to improve sleep quality and duration. Milk is also an excellent calcium source, promoting bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Some studies have suggested that a balanced diet that includes dairy products might play a role in improving sleep. Either way, who doesn’t like a nice glass of fresh milk?
Aside from being delicious, fish is a great source of iron, choline, vitamin B12, and zinc, which have been shown to improve sleep. But it’s not just any fish, fatty fish such as:
Sardines are your best option
These fish are excellent sources of vitamin D and are high in omega-3 fatty acids, both shown to regulate sleep patterns. Some studies have suggested a link between deficiencies in fatty acids and sleep quality.
Three foods to avoid before bed
Research into nutrition and the role it plays in helping us get to sleep is still in its early stages. That said, studies have shown several foods and drinks that may hinder or interrupt our natural sleep patterns.
Most people enjoy a quiet glass of wine or gin after dinner, and while alcohol does have some health benefits, it might not be the best choice before bed. In short, alcohol can make you sleepy but also disrupt your sleep, especially during the deeper stages of REM sleep.
One of the most evident links between nutrition and lack of sleep and or ‘sleep disorders’ is caffeine. Foods and drinks like coffee, dark chocolate, energy drinks, and tea may cause disturbances in sleep patterns.
Additionally, researchers have found that food and drinks high in sugar should also be avoided, particularly in people suffering from sleep disorders.
Meat has many powerful health benefits, such as building and repairing muscle and boosting our immune systems. Meat is also an excellent source of protein. However, when it comes to protein and its effects on sleep, some early indications are that it may negatively impact deep sleep.
Sum it up
In today’s fast-paced society, it is common for people to neglect their food and sleep. Luckily, though, as you’ve seen, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can go a long way to fixing your sleep problems.
Consuming foods rich in ‘nutrient-promoting’ sleep, like magnesium, melatonin, tryptophan, and vitamin B6 is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep. Remember, though, the timing of these foods is just as important as the nutrients themselves.
Coupled with regular daily exercise and a consistent sleep routine, food has the power to transform your sleep from restless nights to sleeping like a baby.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more
Watch this video from Dr. Eric Berg in which he lists and explores the factors that prevent people from sleeping. Dr. Berg is a best-selling author who specializes in Healthy Ketosis & Intermittent Fasting. He has a very popular YouTube channel in which he educates his viewers on correct nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
Receive Exclusive Tips & Weekly Digest – subscribe to our newsletter