Dieting and Sleep

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That nutrition plays a central role in our health is no secret. After all, the old adage “you are what you eat” acknowledges how important nutrition is for our well-being. This concept is taking on an added dimension as research demonstrates the impact of diet on sleep.

It is estimated that nearly one-third of Americans suffer from insomnia and related sleeping problems. Dietary problems are also abundant with an obesity rate in America hovering near 40%.

Researchers studying both of these public health problems have noted a strong link between sleep and obesity, and there is strong reason to believe that improving diet can improve sleep and vice versa.

In this guide, you can find more information about this relationship between dieting and sleep. We’ll discuss specific diets, review foods that can help and hinder sleep, and answer many frequently asked questions about nutrition and sleep.

Does Food and Nutrition Affect Sleep?

Food and nutrition can have a profound impact on sleep. A healthy diet and eating habits can promote both higher quality sleep and more total sleep time.

Studies have long recognized that there are connections between poor sleep and poor diet. People with various type of sleep disturbances have a tendency to also have inconsistent or unhealthy diets. However, in many of these studies, it can be hard to tell the direction of causality. As it turns out, it is likely that sleep affects nutrition and that nutrition affects sleep.

How your body processes food and nutrients depends on what, when, and how much you eat. Eating instigates a series of reactions in the body, and the nature of those reactions can influence your ability to fall asleep as well as your sleep architecture. At the same time, getting poor sleep has been associated with obesity and can be associated with poor dietary choices.

The way that individuals respond to food is extremely variable and can depend on a person’s genetics, environment, stress, activity, gut microbiome, and other factors. Researchers are just beginning to deepen their understanding of these complex and interrelated systems. As a result, it can be challenging to state exactly how a diet or food will impact a specific individual, but at a general level, it is clear that how we eat can directly influence how we sleep.

How Do Diets Affect Sleep?

Everyone has a diet; diet simply refers to what you eat. But when people are “on a diet” or follow a specific diet, it means that they adhere to a certain set of rules about what foods to eat.

Our food intake and how our body processes it can impact our sleep, so different types of diets that restrict particular foods or nutrients can have varying effects on sleep.

In this section, we’ll describe some common diets and their potential effects on sleep. However, keep in mind that many bodily systems are involved in regulating metabolism and processing food. Every person is unique, and the same food or diet can affect people in markedly different ways. A doctor or nutritionist is in the best position to offer personalized advice about the optimal diet for any individual.