One of the most common experiences in adult life is the conundrum of a crappy sleep cycle. There are a million different things that could be stuffing up your nightly snooze. But if you’re planning on assessing your general health in the hope of getting some quality shut-eye, it’s worth starting off with your diet.
Geraldine Georgeou, an Accredited Practising Dietitian, shed some light on this for me over email.
Most of us are aware of those standard rules like caffeine or sugar after a certain hour can get in the way of restful sleep. But the relationship between food and our sleep patterns is actually far more involved than that.
Georgeou explained that plainly “Research has shown a diet with less fibre, higher saturated fat, and foods high in sugar may be linked with lighter, less restorative sleep.”
This goes beyond the idea of “bad foods” and “good foods,” too. The timing of your meals can also have an impact.
Georgeou shared that late dinners or snacking before bed have the ability to derail your body’s entire process.
“Your body needs time to digest food and if that [snack or meal] contains high carbs or sugar, your blood sugar level can spike,” she said.
“This interferes with the body’s process of winding down.”
By delaying the digestion process, your body’s ability to prepare for rest is impaired and as a result, it can have trouble regulating its circadian rhythms (the 24-hour clock your body runs to).
“As a rule of thumb, leave a two – three-hour gap between your last meal and before going to bed. This will also ensure your food is fully digested before you sleep,” Georgeou said.
If you’re struggling to sleep through the night or find yourself waking up in the morning feeling like you haven’t even closed your eyes, it may be worth changing your diet up.
Georgeou shared that diets rich in fruit and vegetables; high in fibre (stock up on whole grains) and low in saturated fats should promote a healthier sleep pattern.
“Consider prebiotic fibre, such as fibre cereals, which passes through the GI tract undigested and stimulates the growth and, or activity of certain ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine,” she added.
And when it comes to dinner or evening snacks, remember to watch the time; avoid “overly high carbohydrate and high sugar foods” and try to keep the servings smaller.
If you’re still struggling with your sleep after that, it may be worth chatting to a health professional for some additional advice. Your sleep is an important part of your health, be sure to prioritise it.