Nutrition Plays Key Role in Sleep

by Dr. Dana Rockey, DMD, Owner, Prescott Sleep Solutions

A healthy diet and restorative sleep are two of the most important pieces in your overall wellness puzzle. But are they linked?

The short answer is, “Yes,” but the connection is complex. A shortfall in either of these areas can cast a long shadow over your health.

To help break them down, I (Rockey leads a team of dental sleep medicine specialists at South County Sleep Solutions and Prescott Sleep Solutions) pulled together the following information.

What you eat can affect your sleep

Ongoing studies say when it comes to nutrition and sleep, what you eat can affect your sleep. One study of 1,800 men between the ages of 35 and 80 found that men with a high-fat diet were more likely to report poor sleep and daytime sleepiness, and more likely to have sleep apnea.

Another review of nutrition and sleep studies concluded that most studies support the notion that, “Increasing fruit and vegetable intakes, choosing whole grains (higher in fiber) and favoring vegetable oils (low in saturated fat),” may be able to promote better sleep.

Where the link gets complicated is that poor nutrition and poor sleep can become a vicious cycle.

If you’re not getting good restorative sleep, daytime fatigue can lead you to make poor nutrition choices, such as sugars and refined carbs for a quick energy boost.

Of course there are some more obvious connections between nutrition and poor sleep like drinking caffeinated drinks or too much alcohol before bed. Eating spicy foods before bedtime also can lead to sleep-interrupting acid reflux.

Your weight can affect sleep

Our main concern here is the link between obesity and sleep apnea, which is a potentially dangerous condition in which you’re not able to breathe properly while you sleep.

When you eat matters

Your digestive system slows by 50% while you sleep, so eating hard-to-digest foods before bedtime may not be a good idea.

If you want a late-night snack, it’s important to choose something low in fat and low in protein so your body can digest the food more easily. An apple, whole wheat toast, oatmeal — these are examples of late-night snacks that won’t keep you up.

Bottom line? Healthy whole-food nutrition not only is good for your health, it can play a role in helping you get the sleep you need.