Nutrition and sleep: the best and worst foods for quality rest

A bowl of vegetables and rice artfully arranged

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It is well known that following a balanced diet is the key to living a healthy lifestyle. It reduces the risk of diseases such as stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, helps maintain a more positive mood and promotes more energy. Among other things, good nutrition essentially helps us look and feel our best. Funny enough, even a full night’s sleep offers many of the same benefits.

Good sleep e conscious eating they go hand in hand, and each has the ability of the other. Eating the wrong foods at the wrong time can be detrimental to your sleep quality, which plays an important role in maintaining your physique and mental health. Below, learn how to change your eating habits to get better quality rest, including the best sleep foods and the foods you want to avoid.

How poor sleep affects your health

The recommended amount of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours each night. During that time, your brain goes through four stages of sleep: three stages of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and one stage of REM (rapid eye movement).

  • NREM sleep: The stages of peaceful sleep where your brain works to retain memories and knowledge, as well as repair, refresh and restore your body.
  • REM sleep: The active sleep phase in which your body works to repair cells and muscle tissue, promote bone and muscle growth, and help strengthen the immune system.

If you often wake up in the middle of the night or have difficulty sleeping through the night, you are preventing your body from carrying out the necessary processes that keep you healthy and productive. Continued poor sleep puts you at risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Bad memory
  • Weakened immune system

An unbalanced diet tends to be a common cause of poor sleep, especially if you’re eating certain foods too close to bedtime.


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Nutrition for quality sleep

There seems to be a clear link between nutrition and sleep quality. To find out more, I spoke to Stephanie Nelson, a registered dietitian who works as a nutrition expert at the MyFitnessPal monitoring app. Nelson explained: “The relationship between sleep and nutrition is very complex and we don’t know all about all the associations between sleep and food. However, a good general summary is that any biological process, including sleep, is affected by getting the right thing. amount of nutrients. “

“For example, having high blood sugar impacts your energy at that time, which can prevent you from sleeping,” Nelson continued. “Other nutrients affect neurotransmitters that make it easier to relax and turn off the brain for sleep.”

While food affects sleep, the amount of quality sleep you get can also affect your eating habits. Nelson said: “Interestingly, the relationship goes both ways. There is research showing that poor sleep can negatively impact hormone balances that affect your hunger, and people who sleep less tend to eat. more in general “.

Making more informed choices about food and when you eat it can make a big difference in your sleep quality.

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Dos and don’ts about eating to sleep better

Here are Nelson’s tips on how to eat to sleep better.

What to do

1. Eat a balanced dinner

“The building blocks of a balanced dinner are a protein source, a high-fiber carbohydrate source and a vegetable. It might look like grilled marinated chicken breast, some quinoa and roasted vegetables,” Nelson said. “You might even get more creative with it, like a coconut curry made with tofu and sautéed vegetables, served over brown rice, or tacos made with the protein of your choice, some beans, cabbage and onions (and all your other favorite toppings). ”

Chicken and vegetables for sleeping

Getty Images / Burcu Atalay Tankut

2. Eat foods that promote serotonin production

Serotonin is needed for your body to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. But Nelson also warns him also Very serotonin is associated with poor sleep.

“In order for your body to produce the right amount of serotonin, you need to consume tryptophan, an amino acid that you can find in most animal-based foods, oats, nuts and seeds,” Nelson explained. “You also need to have a source of carbohydrates, which allows the tryptophan to be used for serotonin rather than other processes. Other nutrients such as vitamin B6, found in sweet potatoes among other foods, are also needed for the right amount of production. of serotonin “.

3. Eat about three hours before bedtime

You may have heard that you shouldn’t eat before bed if you want a good night’s rest. But in how long, exactly, should you stop eating? “It’s different for everyone,” Nelson said. “Most experts recommend eating three hours before bed for best sleep results, so start there, but definitely play with it. Some people can eat closer to bedtime and still get a good night’s sleep.” , he said.

Do not do it

1. Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol before bed

You probably know that caffeine isn’t the best nighttime drink, but what about alcohol or juices? Nelson says you should try to avoid them even in the hours before bed.

“Being hydrated is the key to getting a good night’s sleep,” she said. “Alcohol dehydrates you, so for the first step, cut back on your alcohol consumption before bed. Even drinks that are high in sugar can interfere with sleep and anything with caffeine.”

“If you’re having trouble sleeping, definitely check when your last caffeinated drinks are consumed before bed,” he noted.

2. Don’t eat dessert before bedtime

For people with a sweet tooth, don’t eat foods like ice cream, cookies, or chocolate before bed. Nelson explains that “low-fiber, high-sugar snacks at bedtime can cause your blood sugar to spike and drop.” These irregular blood sugar levels can disrupt your sleep in a number of ways, making your deep rest difficult.


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3. Don’t go overboard with nighttime indulgences

“Eating large amounts of any type of food too close to bedtime will likely affect your sleep, especially if it’s high in sugar or fat. On the other hand, if you go to bed hungry, it could also negatively impact your sleep. your sleep, “Nelson said

Life happens, and sometimes you need one midnight snack to avoid falling asleep with your stomach rumbling. Nelson recommends eating something small, high in fiber and pairing it with protein “to keep your blood sugar from rising and to keep you full until morning.” He adds: “Try a banana with peanut butter or a handful of berries with yogurt.”

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care practitioner with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.

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