How Your Diet Can Affect Your Sleep

The Spread

March 21, 2023

Did you know that the amount of sleep you get every night is not the only thing that determines whether or not you feel rested in the morning? There are so many other factors that can also play a part. For example, the amount of exercise and how much time you spend outside or staring at your phone can also affect sleep quality. Finally, what you eat during the day can also play a massive role in the quality of your slumber. In the rest of this article, we'll try to get to the bottom of this last factor and explain exactly how your diet can affect your sleep.


Eating Before Bed

If you eat just before bed, your digestive system may cause you to toss and turn all through the night. That's why you should avoid consuming large meals late at night. By having a filling dinner earlier in the evening, your body will have more time to burn the additional calories off, decreasing the likelihood that you'll store them as fat. You'll also experience less heartburn and feel more relaxed as a result.


Which Foods Can Disrupt Your Sleep?

A healthy diet can cause you to fall asleep faster and wake up with much more energy. On the other hand, some foods can seriously disrupt your sleep and leave you lying awake in your bed past midnight. These are some of the foods you should avoid to ensure a good night's sleep:

  • Acidic meals. Even nutritious foods like peppermint, citrus fruits, dark chocolate, onions, tomatoes, and garlic can cause reflux and heartburn and disrupt your sleep.
  • Alcohol and drugs. The connection between sleep and substance use disorders should not be neglected, as the two are complexly linked in many different ways. Although it might seem like the occasional glass of wine or sleeping pill can’t do much harm, if you want to fall asleep quickly, avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs altogether should be your first step.
  • Caffeine. Even if you might think caffeine does not affect you, you should still limit your caffeinated beverages after 2 pm, especially coffee, tea, and soda. This includes caffeine-containing foods and drinks such as chocolate, pastries with coffee or chocolate flavoring, and even decaf coffee.
  • Fatty foods. These consist of cheese, butter, fatty meats, and anything fried. It will keep your stomach running through the night, and you'll have trouble falling asleep.


Person making foam art on an espresso.

If you want to fall asleep easily, avoid drinking coffee after 2 pm.


Can Going To Bed Hungry Affect Your Sleep?

While it's best to avoid food after 6 pm, going to bed hungry can also keep you up at night and affect the quality of your sleep. If you feel hungry at night, it's best to have something light, such as a small bowl of cereal, if you are genuinely hungry. If you're not too hungry, you can try something low in calories and caffeine, like herbal tea. Or, you can even drink a warm glass of skim milk as you prepare for bed. Having a nighttime routine, such as drinking herbal tea or warm milk before bed instead of scrolling on your phone, can also help improve your mental health and sleep.

Foods That Can Enhance Your Sleep

Now that we know that a bad diet can affect your sleep, let's look at what you need to pay attention to if you want to improve it:

  • Glycemic index (GI)-low carbohydrates: The glycemic index is a scale that evaluates how quickly eating carbs can raise or lower blood sugar levels. Choosing low GI meals (such as whole grain pasta, bread, rice, oats, and lentils) will help maintain your blood sugar constant. This is opposed to high GI foods, which induce a jump in blood sugar levels and energy and may make it difficult to fall asleep when consumed later in the day.
  • Water: Lack of water can cause restless sleep and fatigue the following day. Stay hydrated by consuming adequate water throughout the day and replenishing with meals high in water content, such as fruit, vegetables, and soups. Avoid trying to make up for your fluid consumption at night because it's likely that going to the bathroom throughout the night will keep you awake.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Some vitamins and minerals may significantly impact how well we sleep. Recent research indicates that having a magnesium deficiency may affect the quality of our sleep; thus, maintaining sufficient amounts in our diets may be helpful. It will help to consume nuts, leafy green vegetables, and high-fiber foods like beans and whole grains and to watch out for items that have been fortified.


Flat-lay photo of a vegetable salad, showing how diet can affect your sleep.

A healthy diet and balanced meals are critical to a healthy life and sleep.


Hormones: Melatonin & Serotonin

As you know, hormones affect everything in your body: from your period to your sleep cycle. Melatonin, which helps regulate your internal body clock, and serotonin, which is in charge of producing feelings like lethargy and sleepiness, are the two major hormones controlling sleep. What you consume can affect both. Moreover, synthesizing both hormones in your body depends on two vitamins: B12 and B6.

Vitamin B12, which is naturally present in animal products such as meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs, is implicated in the release of melatonin. Some foods, including morning cereals and milk substitutes made from soy, almond, coconut, and rice, have added vitamin B12. 

B6 is a crucial B vitamin for sleep because of its involvement in serotonin synthesis. You should consume more organ meats, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables, non-citrus fruit, and fortified cereals to enhance your B6 consumption.


A man sleeping in his bed.

Melatonin and serotonin are two hormones that have a massive impact on your sleep.


Final Thoughts

Although diet isn't the only thing on the list, it can affect your sleep in many ways. To get better quality sleep at night, it's best to avoid eating late at night and stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods.