Your diet affects your sleep in many obvious—and not so obvious—ways. It makes sense that our bodies are affected by the substances we put into them. But, there’s more to the story. It’s not simply about what you eat, but when you eat and how, too!
This post will explore how your diet can help you sleep like a baby or keep you up all night. But first, we need some definitions.
One way to think about diet is to use an analogy. Diet is not synonymous with meal, much in the way that weather is not synonymous with climate. Like climate, diet refers to habits that stretch across time. Having a piece of cake once in a while is not a diet, whereas habitually eating cake every night would be a part of a person’s diet.
With this analogy in mind, we aren’t concerned with the weather. In other words, we aren’t going to explore how one-off meals might affect your sleep. Rather, this article will focus on how long-term dietary trends—the climate—affect your sleep.
Long-term dietary patterns affect a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The chemicals and substances we put in our bodies have measurable effects over time. Poor nutrition is correlated with various health problems, like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
These health conditions affect sleep patterns in many ways.
Sleep problems and obesity have a symbiotic relationship. Obesity can lead to sleep problems, while sleep problems can fuel obesity. Essentially, they both work to reinforce each other. Some of the ways obesity negatively affects sleep are physical, while others are chemical.
Obstructive sleep apnea is an obvious physical way obesity can impair a person’s sleep. With sleep apnea, a person’s airway is constricted at night. Though non-obese people can have sleep apnea, nearly double the number of obese people experience sleep apnea compared to non-obese people.
Getting a whole night’s sleep helps your body maintain and regulate your metabolism and hormone levels. When a person consistently gets poor sleep, their metabolism and hormone production becomes compromised, increasing the risk of obesity.
This leads to a whole range of weight-related health problems, such as increased insulin insensitivity, which brings us to our next point.
Diabetes is another disease that is related to both diet and sleep. People with diabetes have to regularly deal with high and low blood sugar levels because their bodies no longer produce enough insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
When blood sugar levels are too high, the kidneys have to work extra hard to filter out the excess sugar. This leads to frequent urination, which negatively impacts a person’s sleep.
When blood sugar levels are too low, a person’s sleep can be interrupted by nightmares, night sweats, and other panic-inducing sleep interruptions.
Poor diet and poor sleep both impact heart health. People with obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia are more likely to have coronary artery disease and arrhythmias. They are also more likely to experience heart failure.
Managing overall health requires keeping track of many different factors—including quality of sleep and maintaining a healthy diet. What are some ways you can change your diet to sleep better at night?
- Reduce Caffeine
- Avoid Heavy Meals at Night
- Avoid Alcohol Before Bedtime
- Shift Larger Meals Toward Earlier in the Day
- Limit Foods That Cause Indigestion, Heartburn, or Gas
If you are curious about how your diet affects your sleep, you can keep a dream journal, sign up for a sleep study, or talk to your doctor.
About the Author
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.