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Bedtime Snacks: How Nutrition Ties into Sleep

December 27, 2022
Nutrition & Sleep: How Sleep and Diet Work Together | Sleep Reset

It’s no secret that diet and sleep are major pillars of health for human beings. However, the relationship between the two is more dynamic than you may expect.

Diet and nutrition can influence the quality of your sleep. Some specific foods and drinks can either hurt or help your nightly slumber. However, proper sleep affects other major health factors like weight and mood, meaning that having an appropriate understanding of the relationship between sleep and nutrition is imperative to your overall well-being.

How nutrition and sleep connect

Let’s be clear, we’re sleep experts at Sleep Reset, not nutritionists. You should always consult with a doctor or nutritionist when discussing a diet or meal plan that best suits you.

However, there are many studies, and evidence, that we can discuss when showing the relationship between nutrition and sleep. One such study comes from the Sleep Foundation that reads, “[since] sleep and nutrition are extremely complex and involve multiple interconnected systems of the body, it is challenging to conduct research studies that conclusively demonstrate a single diet is best for sleep. Instead, what appears most important is that a person gets adequate nutrition without over-consuming unhealthy foods.”

This probably doesn’t surprise you, but it helps steer us toward looking at the foods we’re eating and how they affect sleep through the lens of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Macronutrients, which consist of proteins, carbs, and fats can have significant impacts on the quality of your sleep. Since “macronutrients” make up many of the categories of food, this umbrella term encompasses foods like fish, avocados, potatoes, and peanuts. According to CNET, there is evidence that shows that people low in vitamins E, C, B12, and B6 are more likely to suffer from sleep problems. Macronutrients like quinoa, lean poultry, fish, and leafy greens are all high in the aforementioned vitamins and can help your body produce melatonin – a natural hormone that promotes sleep.

Certain minerals also play an important role in promoting higher-quality sleep. Specifically, magnesium and iron are two pivotal minerals that, if deficient, negatively affect sleep. Like healthy macronutrients, magnesium helps your body produce melatonin which aids in sleep. Iron deficiencies, which are often referred to as anemia, can make a human body more likely to experience restless leg syndrome. This causes the leg to unexpectedly and abruptly move throughout the night, causing a person to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. 

Introducing foods like spinach, nuts, red meat, legumes, and yogurt can all help augment your body’s magnesium and iron levels.

What about sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes the airway to obstruct while someone is sleeping, causing them to snore, or even be awoken by their inability to breathe properly. This debilitating condition harms sleep, but it can be mitigated if addressed.

Specifically, there is a notable relationship between alcohol and sleep apnea. It’s probably no surprise that we recommend avoiding alcohol too close to bedtime, whether you struggle with sleep apnea or not.

How can sleep affect nutrition?

Up to this point, we’ve covered how nutrition can affect your sleep, but poor sleep can negatively impact your nutritional decisions. According to the Sleep Foundation, there is a link between lack of sleep or poor sleep and overconsumption of food. The slippery slope is when this is happening, it usually means there isn’t enough energy output, meaning the calories can quickly pile up.

What’s not always clear is the hormonal factors at play that can lead to this poor decision-making. Our bodies naturally produce the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which help monitor and control appetite and hunger. These hormones are easily thrown off balance when lack of sleep is present, which can trick our mind into thinking we are hungry instead of just simply tired.

Is it time to cut out the bedtime snack?

We’ve been able to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between sleep and nutrition, but what does that mean for everyday life? Do we all have to give up simple pleasures like bedtime snacks?

Not necessarily, but it’s probably best to put some parameters in place for your late-night munching, including:

  • Most research suggests that you stop eating roughly 3 hours before bedtime, especially if you have acid reflux. You want to give your body enough time to fully digest any food, so it’s not having to do that work while you’re sleeping.
  • 3 hours might seem like a long time, and life has a way of making it so that we don’t get to eat until later in the evening on some nights. Try to find bedtime snacks that aren’t too heavy, like peanut butter, almonds, and cherries.
  • Lastly, remember that macronutrients matter when it comes to sleep quality. Find foods that don’t have too much sugar, and contain essential vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Feeling better in food and sleep

Food and nutrition are key aspects of good sleep hygiene. When we sleep well, we feel good, have more energy, and make better health decisions.

If you find yourself struggling with getting good sleep, and aren’t sure why, Sleep Reset is here to help. We have coaches who will work with you on a case-by-case basis, and try different tactics until we find the right combination that works for you. To get started visit us online and start working with a dedicated specialist today.

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