How Your Eating Habits Could Be Harming Your Sleep

eating in bed

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If you find yourself tossing and turning while you are trying to catch some shut eye, you might want to stop counting sheep and start keeping track of what you eat before bed. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine certain foods help you sleep, while others cause you to toss and turn all night and wake up feeling restless.

The results of the research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center show that high fiber intake before bed led to more time spent in the stage of deep, slow-wave sleep. In contrast, foods with a high percentage of saturated fat resulted in participants getting less slow-wave sleep. Greater sugar intake also was associated with tossing and turning.

The study’s principal investigator, Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of medicine and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center, said the main finding was that diet quality and sleep quality were connected. “It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters,” St-Onge, PhD, says in the release.

The study, which involved 13 male and 13 female adult participants, found that the subjects fell asleep faster after eating meals provided by a nutritionist. These meals included foods that were lower in saturated fat and higher in protein. Avoiding high-fat and processed foods and sugar (such as junk food like chips, candy, or ice cream) before bed will help you obtain quality rest, by allowing your body to reach deep slow-wave sleep.

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“It took participants an average of 29 minutes to fall asleep after consuming foods and beverages of their choice, but only 17 minutes to fall asleep after eating controlled meals,” the release says. According to Jessica Redmond, RD, it’s important to not only know what foods are fine to eat before bedtime but also what size portions would lead to a better night sleep.

“To help prepare you for sleep, it is best to avoid eating large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime. If you have to eat a late dinner, keep the portions a bit smaller than usual,” Redmond tells Greatist. According to the site, some good snacks to eat before bed include whole grains or low-fat dairy combined with proteins.

“The carbohydrate-containing foods help the tryptophan-rich foods get absorbed by the brain,” Lindsey Joe, RD, tells the site. The study is an example of how diet and sleep can have a direct connection. However, according to American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Nathaniel Watson, there are other factors that prove to be important.

“For optimal health, it is important to make lifestyle choices that promote healthy sleep, such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly,” Watson said in the report.

Quality of sleep is a direct indication of your health and nutrition routines. If you are tossing and turning night after night, your first step should be toward your refrigerator.

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