Can you eat better to sleep better?

Does what you eat affect how you sleep?  My daughter sent me an interesting article
discussing how the food you eat and the beverages you drink affect how well you
sleep.  The author said she tried a new
diet and found that she slept better. 
She based her “diet” on information she learned from The Sleep Doctor who
was on the TODAY show offering advice. 
The Sleep Doctor not only has a website offering sleep advice, he also
runs an online course, “How
to Sleep Better Course”
.  Along with
the Sleep Doctor a clinical
also provided some diet advice that this article reviewed and
the author tried. 


If you want a better night’s sleep, what are some
things you might want to try?

1.  Coffee 

Wait 60-90 minutes before your first cup of
coffee:  The Sleep Doctor recommends you
forgo coffee until 90 minutes after you wake up.  This would be a challenge for many people who
grab their cup of coffee almost as soon as their feet hit the floor.  I know it would be a challenge for me.  Why should you put off that 1st
morning cup of coffee?  The Sleep Doctor
notes that when you sleep and then get up, your body has lots of chemicals in
it.  Drinking coffee first thing, just
adds to those chemicals.  So, the Sleep
Doctor recommends you start your day with a drink of water (lemon water would
be great).  You are dehydrated when you
wake up so the water is important.  Then
wait 90 minutes and enjoy your first cup of coffee.  The author noted she did reach for water when
she woke up but could only make it 60 minutes before her first cup of coffee. 

No coffee after 2 PM – This I can do.  I like my caffeinated coffee in the morning
but after lunch I switch to decaf coffee if I have coffee at all after

No coffee after 2 PM. Switch to decaf after 2 PM.

2.  Don’t overeat – yes, eat until you feel
full but don’t overeat.  Overeating can
tax your body and this can affect how well you sleep.  In the nutrition class I teach, I recommend not
eating late at night and then lying on the couch.  Many people get acid reflux and indigestion
(heart burn) if they lay down after eating. 
Eating late at night and then going to bed would have the same

      3.  Focus on protein and complex carbs at meals:  This will help you maintain a more level
blood sugar level throughout the day.  Eating
protein at meals helps keep you feeling full. 
Complex carbs like whole grains, are not only healthy, they won’t spike
your blood sugar levels. 

“Avoid foods with high amounts of added sugars
Did you ever really look at how many foods you eat with added sugars?  (See Added
Sugars and Risks for Your Health
In the class I teach, students are asked to review every food and
beverage they eat for added sugars.  Some
students eat diets very low in added sugars. 
Others have diets surprisingly high in added sugars.  For example, drinking a bottle of sweet tea
three times a day, added 570 calories and 144 grams of added sugar to one student’s
daily intake.  That is a lot of added
sugar calories.  Start to look at the
Nutrition Label and look for “added sugars”. 
Most nutrition labels now have this information.  I try to save my “added sugars” for desserts
and we try to keep added sugars out of our main meal.  Not really easy to do as even many spaghetti
sauces have added sugar.     

5.  “Stay hydrated” – yes, you can aim for 8
glasses of water a day. But it doesn’t have to be water.  I wrote a blog on Is
water the best for hydration?
and surprise, it isn’t just water that keeps
you hydrated.  Researchers have found
that fat-free milk, whole milk and real orange juice are actually beverages
more hydrating than water.  Who would
have thought that drinking real milk is a good way to hydrate?  In the classes I teach, students often think
they have to give their kids water at meals and often water in place of
milk.  Not true.  The kids will hydrate just fine with a glass
of milk and they will also get important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D
that water doesn’t provide. 

Real milk is great for hydration.

What are some foods that can
help you sleep and what are some foods to avoid?

Foods that help you sleep:

  • Turkey, chicken
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios
  • Rice – choose brown rice as it is whole grain
  • Salmon
  • Spinach, avocado
  • Bananas, cherries, kiwi

Foods that may disrupt your

  •  Drinks with added sugar – soft drinks, sweet
    tea, sports drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine – coffee, tea, some soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Processed foods high in fat and/or sugar

So how did the author do trying
the “sleep diet” for a week?  She claimed
she was sleeping much better.  She even
noted she felt more focused during the day and could pay better attention.  The Sleep Doctor notes that when you get
enough sleep, your mood is better throughout the day as most of us know from
experience.  He calls it

If you want to sleep better this
week, try some of these ideas.  Make a
comment and let us know what worked for you and what didn’t.

Sources:  article
, The Sleep Doctor
, How
to Sleep Better Course”
, clinical psychologist
, Added
Sugars and Risks for Your Health
, Is
water the best for hydration?
Sources:  Coffee
, Milk,

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