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How Sleep Relates to Nutrition

By: Annemarie Morrell, Winthrop University Nutrition Student

Most people are aware that sleep is necessary and very important for your health and well-being, but a lot of the times people are not getting enough sleep. There are many factors on why people can't get enough sleep, but it's essential to know the importance of it and how it can play a role in your food habits and nutrition. Sleep is essential not only to get you through the day but it also supports brain function growth and your physical health over your lifespan. The result of having a bad night sleep can cause you to be lethargic, not being able to focus, and eating more throughout the day. Your sleep quality can affect your hunger cues which could then lead you to eat from boredom or if you need quick energy you might go for a more unhealthy snack.

How Nutrition Plays a Role

Nutrition plays an important role on sleep and can affect your sleep quality and the body's natural clock. Your eating habits affect your sleep quality by influencing neurotransmitters, hormones, and digestion. Your digestion system slows down while you're sleeping which can cause the food to sit in your stomach longer than it would during the day. So when you're eating a heavy or large meal close to your bedtime it can disrupt your sleep by causing indigestion. There have also been studies and research showing that shorter sleep times can be associated with weight gain. Sleep has an effect on the hunger hormone or ghrelin and leptin which is the hormone that signals your brain to tell your body that you're full. When you don't get a good night's sleep these hormones can increase and leptin decreases which could result in you being hungrier and not getting full. Also poor quality of sleep is associated with elevated cortisol which is the stress hormone which can contribute to excess energy as adipose in the abdominal. It is recommended that most adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night although some people could function better when getting more and some can function even on the lowest amount. Although sleeping less than 6 hours every night is not recommended.

Nutrition Recommendations for Better Sleep

Some recommendations to improve your sleep quality nutritionally would be to eat a couple hours before your bedtime to give your stomach time to digest food. Also keeping a consistent diet, by eating close to the same time each day and to make sure you're getting a healthy balance of nutrients in your meals. Some other food recommendations that could help with sleep would be complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, lean proteins including chicken and low fat cheese which can increase serotonin levels, unsaturated fats, foods high in magnesium which would be nuts, spinach, seeds, avocados, or black beans, as well as certain beverages such as warm milk or herbal tea. Lookout for foods that are low in fiber and high in saturated fat because it could decrease the amount of deep sleep you could be getting. Excess sugar can cause you to not get a restful night's sleep as well.

In conclusion understanding how important and necessary sleep is for your overall mental and physical well-being is very important as well as understanding the nutritional aspect as well. It's important to watch your sleeping habits and see if they are affecting your food choices or if it's the other way around. Nutrition and sleep go hand in hand and hopefully with the recommendations and looking at how these two relate it can give you a better understanding of how your food choices or your sleep schedule can affect you mentally and physically.


Team W. Can't sleep? check what's on your plate. Cleveland Clinic. Published June 29, 2022. Accessed October 25, 2022.

Montjoye CD. Understanding the connections between sleep and Nutrition. DHW Blog. Published August 11, 2020. Accessed October 25, 2022.

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