How to Get Better Sleep with Nutrition

We all know to have good health you should have good nutrition and enough sleep. They have a bigger relationship than you might think! For example, you may not sleep well after drinking a soda, and then it’s harder to eat well after not getting enough sleep. Learning about the connection of both can help you improve your quality and quantity of sleep while bettering your overall health. 

How sleep affects eating

When you don’t get enough sleep it affects your hunger-related hormones. This causes you to eat more, more often. Cravings for high sugary foods also increase. When you are tired, you are more likely to reach for the nutrient-empty foods because they tend to be quick and easy.

How eating affects sleep

After you consume caffeine, alcohol, and high sugary/salty foods, it can affect your sleep in a negative way. It might be harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Think of these foods as foods that may cause your mind to race when you’re in bed! 

When you consume nutrient-dense foods, it is easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Below there are foods you can consume that have natural sleep enhancers!

How they are connected

Think of your wellbeing as a cycle – one example below:

You’re stressed at work, so you have trouble sleeping. You sleep terribly. The next day, you sleep through your morning workout. You’re then running to work so don’t have time for your usual breakfast routine so you stop at McDonald’s. You’re exhausted all day from not nourishing your body that you need to drink more and more caffeine All of this impacts your sleep that night too, and the cycle repeats.

Sound similar?

 How to start getting more sleep and making better food decisions

Here are some tips on getting better sleep so you can make those better food choices! 

  • Go to bed at the same time every night to create a good schedule. 
  • Make sure there are no distractions (tv, light, animals)
  • Avoid eating and watching television in bed
  • Try to have your last meal 2-3 hours before you plan on going to sleep
  • Avoid afternoon caffeine (coffee, tea, even chocolate). Try lemon water instead if craving a warm beverage. 
  • The goal should be 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. 

Below are some tips on making better food choices to get better sleep! 

If your days are full and you tend to get tired at the end of the day, and therefore don’t feel like cooking, try meal planning and prepping! Make tupperwares of nutrient-dense ready made meals. My go-to on weeks I know are jam packed are power-bowls. They are filled with vegetables, protein, and good sources of carbs. 

My favorite is a sweet potato, back beans, and turkey meat power bowl. On the weekend before my busy week, I bake a couple sweet potatoes, cook a can of black beans, and a pound of turkey meat. Then I divide it up between a couple of tupperware. It tends to sit well in the refrigerator, and on nights I don’t feel like cooking, I have something ready. 

Foods to eat before bed to have better sleep:

  1. Almonds: Almonds have good amounts of melatonin and magnesium which enhance sleep.
  2. Turkey: Turkey has a good amount of protein and tryptophan (amino acid) which can promote tiredness.
  3. Chamomile Tea: Has good amounts of antioxidants and has been known to improve sleep quality. 
  4. Oatmeal: Oatmeal is rich in melatonin and carbs, and has been known to increase drowsiness before bed. 

To summarize:

Not getting enough sleep and making bad food choices can lead to serious health problems. It’s hard to make good food choices without getting enough sleep and it’s hard to get plenty of sleep without making good food choices. Try fitting in more nutrient-dense foods, avoid foods high in sugar and salt, and make a point of getting enough sleep!

Looking for more food items to focus on? Check out our Women’s Health and Nutrition Guide and our Men’s Health and Nutrition Guide – both available now.

This blog was written by Lanie Hagler in collaboration with Registered Dietitian Allison Tallman.

Posted in