Your diet – the food you eat and drink can influence the quality and quantity of your sleep. When you eat junk food, consume caffeine too close to bed, or eat a large meal, your sleep may be disrupted. But you can maintain the quality of your sleep by making good food choices.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine can be a problem for sleep, making you feel too jittery to calm down and doze off. If you’re suffering from low energy throughout the day, good sleep could help you more than a cup of coffee and even though good sleep might not be easy for everyone to achieve, you might be sabotaging yourself by drinking too much coffee to sleep well. Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid caffeine (including coffee, chocolate, or any other food or drink with caffeine) after 3 p.m.
Alcohol can help you fall asleep, which sounds like a good thing. But it can undercut your sleep, too. While you might fall asleep faster, the quality of your sleep will be lower, as you may not fall into as deep of a sleep as you would without alcohol, and you could be more prone to waking up at night. A nightcap is generally a bad idea. If you’ve been drinking in the evening, follow up by flushing your system with some water and a trip to the bathroom before bed.
Junk foods are always a poor choice, and not just for sleep. When you eat overly fatty foods, sugary treats and other junk foods, they can cause sleep issues. You’re more likely to experience light sleep and nighttime awakenings. They might even make sleep uncomfortable if you eat too much.
Large Nighttime Meals
Even if you’re eating a healthy meal at night, eating it too late could keep you up at night or lower the quality of your sleep. When you eat a large meal just before bed, your body’s focus shifts from resting to digesting the meal, so you experience a lower quality of sleep. And if you have issues with acid reflux, a large meal before bed could make it worse.
How Food Can Help You Sleep
Though food can be a problem for sleep, it can help, too. In general, foods that are considered part of a healthy diet are also healthy for sleep. That means you’ll want to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy, and nuts. They can be good sources of calcium, tryptophan, magnesium, melatonin, vitamin B6, and carbohydrates, all of which can help you get a good night’s sleep.
Specific foods to consider for healthy sleep include:
Milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and other dairy products
Walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
Salmon, tuna, and halibut
Breads, pasta, oats, and whole grains
Kale, spinach, and other leafy greens
Cherries, bananas, and other fruit
Of course, it’s possible to have poor sleep even if you have a healthy diet. So you’ll need to maintain good sleep habits, too. That includes avoiding caffeine and alcohol at night — along with cutting off screen time at least one hour before bed. Instead of a large meal at night, consider a small, healthy snack to tide you over until breakfast. And be sure to stick to healthy sleep hygiene, including creating a healthy sleep environment, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, which can work with a healthy diet to help you sleep well.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.