Health Tips

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The Relationship Between Diet and Sleep

The effects of sleep deprivation on health and diet are becoming more well-known. But the link between diet and sleep is two-sided. Learn how eating a balanced diet can be key to a better night’s rest!

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The effects of sleep deprivation on health and diet are becoming more well-known. And even a lack of sleep can cause weight gain.

But the link between diet and sleep is bi-directional. Learn the impact of diet on sleep and how eating a balanced diet can be keep to a better night's rest!

How Does Diet Affect Sleep?

Diet is becoming a growing area of interest in regard to its impact on sleep. What's more, there is a growing body of research supportive of this link.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine aimed to learn how diet affects sleep patterns. Researchers tracked diet and sleep for a group of normal-weight adults over five nights. During the first four days, researchers controlled what the participants ate. On the fifth and final day, participants were able to choose which foods to eat.

The research indicated eating less fiber and more saturated fat and sugar throughout the day led to lighter, less restorative sleep. They also had more arousals, interruptions or awakenings, throughout the night.

Eating dietary fiber can also be of great benefit before bed. Why? Dietary fiber is plant component found in carb sources, which may also help induce sleep.

Carbs Before Bed

Carbs are often scrutinized and, for dieters alike, avoided. However, eating carbs before bed may be a good thing!

In fact, their intake may promote better sleep. More specifically, the coupling of tryptophan-containing and healthy carb sources can help induce sleep.

The essential amino acid tryptophan is a converter to serotonin and melatonin, two hormones associated to sleep and wake cycles. However, tryptophan cannot be used immediately. Instead, consuming tryptophan sources fills up the tryptophan brain tank and a lower carb snack helps empty it for use.

These healthy bedtime snack combos can guide you to dreamland without breaking the calorie bank:

• Whole grain cereal and milk
• Oats with a splash of milk
• Half of a turkey sandwich
• String cheese and a serving of whole grain crackers
• Smoked salmon on a toasted wheat bagel
• Egg wraps prepared with a whole grain tortilla and an egg or two cooked to preference

Avoid Eating Late at Night

Eating a late meal may have negative consequences on sleep. A big meal before bedtime can increase the blood flow to the digestive tract, making the intestinal muscles and pancreas work overtime.

As a general rule of thumb, eat at least two to three hours leading up to bedtime. Also limit or avoid the following:

• High-fat foods: fat takes longer to digest compared to carb and protein, which can cause discomfort shortly after eating. This can keep one awake long past their bedtime.

• Spicy foods: High intakes of spicy foods may cause indigestion, heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain, burning diarrhea, and other stomach issues. This is not ideal when trying to lay for bed.

• Caffeine: Drinking alcohol before bed to sleep better is a common misconception. Though caffeine can offer that energy jolt to start the day, too much can disrupt sleep cycles come bedtime. Keep caffeine intake in the morning hours and give up its intake in the afternoon and evening. But beyond coffee, caffeinated products include soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, and chocolate.

• Alcohol: Drinking alcohol before bed to sleep better is a common misconception. Yes, a glass of wine may induce feelings of tiredness. However, alcohol interferes with natural sleep cycles and can be quite damaging in the long run and disrupt quality sleep altogether. If deciding to drink, limiting one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is recommended.

Eating Healthier While Out

Dining for an evening dinner or late-night party may bring temptation to overindulge. This can in turn cause indigestion, discomfort, and tossing and turning when bedtime rolls around.

However, such occasions can still be enjoyed yet in a healthy fashion. Use these tips to eat healthier while out:

• Look at the menu prior. Before heading to the restaurant, look into what healthy choices are offered. Scoping out the menu prior can help create a game plan and guidance rather than falling into temptation.

• Order water. Drinking a glass or two of water before meals fills the stomach and decreases the opportunity to overeat. It also saves hundreds of calories supplied by soda and alcoholic beverages.

• Go for veggies. Filling up with veggies acts similar to water, lessening the risk of overeating on calorie-rich foods. If ordering a side salad, though, reduce or skip the high-calorie toppings. Also ask for a lighter, olive oil-based dressing.

• Skip the freebies. Some restaurants are notorious for free bread and butter, breadsticks, or chips and salsa. Although tempting, they are packed with calories, possible trans fats, and sodium. To limit their temptation, skip out on them or stick to a single serving.

• Consider ordering appetizers. Not in addition to a main entrée, but in place of. Unlike standard restaurant meals, appetizers maintain a proper portion.

• Scope the buffet. If at a restaurant or party with a buffet, scope out the options first. See which foods are offered allows for a mental game plan. Keep trips limited, too.

• Split entrees. Restaurant plates tend to be quite generous, even being double or three times more than a recommended serving. To avoid trying to finish the plate and over consuming calories, split with someone else at the table. Another option would be halving the entrée once it comes out, eating one half while boxing and taking home the other.

• Look for "light" options. Restaurants are making a vast effort to indicate nutrition content and offer lighter options. These may include some sort of lean protein with fresh vegetables.

• Personalize a meal. It is important to be weary on the food preparation, so do not be shy when it comes to ordering. If a chicken breast is fried, do not hesitate to order it grilled. Also ask for reduced oil used for sautéed veggies.

• Ditch the dessert. Ditching the dessert can save hundreds of calories and unwanted fat and sugar. If a sweet tooth is dominating, ask for in-season fruit. A small piece of dark chocolate or peppermint can also alleviate that annoying, hankering sweet teeth.

Ultimately, keep portions in check and go for nutrient-dense foods to prevent overeating and a restless night. Interestingly, too, there are additional effects of on the opposite end of the spectrum, including undereating.

Effects of Undereating

Calorie intake recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines vary based on age, sex, and physical activity level. However, estimates range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men.

If wanting to lose weight, one would likely restrict calories to be in a deficit. However, going too far under can be detrimental to weight loss goals. It can also lead to poor sleep.

Very low-calorie diets can cause severe side effects, including brain fog, dizziness, irritability, and muscle loss. Extreme diets under 1,200 calories may also deplete the body of essential nutrients, including iron.

Iron deficiency is one of the main causes of restless legs syndrome, which can keep from getting better sleep. Extreme diets also limit the time your body needs at night for necessary muscle repair and rehabilitation.

Besides, the overwhelming sensation of hunger can make it difficult to shut off the mind. Ensuring adequate calories and nutrients is recommended for overall health, including sleep hygiene.

Balanced Diet is Key

For a better night's rest, a balanced diet is key.

Strive to eat a balanced diet rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fat. This includes fresh produce, whole grains, lean and plant-based protein sources. Doing so ensures the body is receiving the nutrients it needs to regulate sleep cycles.

In addition to tryptophan explained above, common nutrients needed for sleep include:

• Calcium: milk and dairy products (yogurt, cheese, etc.), sesame seeds, radishes, sardines with bone, almonds, soybeans, collard greens, and spinach.

• Magnesium: whole grains, avocados, black beans, leafy greens, almonds, seeds, bananas, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds

• Omega-3s: fatty fish (especially halibut, salmon, and tuna), flaxseeds, and walnuts

• Potassium: bananas, radishes, potatoes, white beans, carrots, tomatoes, pistachios, plantains

• Vitamin B6: Fortified breakfast cereals, tuna, salmon, chicken, bananas, russet potatoes with skin, avocados, chickpeas, and bulgur

• Vitamin B12: meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, dairy products, and eggs

• Vitamin C: oranges and orange juice, guavas, bell peppers, currants, peaches, kiwis

• Vitamin D: egg yolk, salmon, sardines, mushrooms and fortified products, including cereal, milk, and orange juice

A balanced diet can also lead to weight loss, in turn leading to better sleep. Losing weight lowers the risk of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and insomnia, which can impede on good sleep. It also can lead to greater energy levels throughout the day and help ease sleep come nightfall.

But how can one naturally control calories, ensure adequate nutrients, lose weight, and sleep great? BistroMD could be the answer!

BistroMD is built on the foundation of healthy weight loss and eating. It is based on real science and advocates food is medicine. Each entrée aids in healthy weight loss diet by supplying a scientific balance of complex carbohydrates, like vegetables, whole grains and fiber. Meals also supply lean protein and healthy fat ratios.

The macronutrients provide the body with what it needs to jump start healthy weight loss! And not to mention, supply balanced nutrition to help induce healthy sleep cycles!

Written By bistroMD Team. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on May 13, 2019.

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