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How Your Nutrition Affects Your Sleep

Posted by Meghan Wilson on
nutrition and sleep

We all know that nutrition and sleep play critical roles in our overall health, but did you know the two are closely connected?

While we often only associate proper nutrition with a healthy weight and adequate sleep with better rest, the two have a symbiotic relationship in our pursuit of a healthy, happy lifestyle.

A balanced diet with proper nutrition plays a critical role in giving our mind the tools and support it needs to get a great night’s sleep. Similarly, getting deep, restful sleep on a routine basis can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight and better balance our diet.

So, how can we eat to improve our sleep? And how should we sleep to enhance our nutrition?

We’ll break down all these answers and more in our Cleveland Kitchen Guide to The Effects of Nutrition on Sleep:

How Are Diet and Sleep Connected?

According to research from sleep experts at Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the National Institute of Health (NIH), our diet can profoundly impact how we sleep. 

In some ways, this may seem like common sense:

If we drink a caffeine-loaded cup of coffee before we hit our pillow, we know we’re liable to have a tough time falling asleep.

Conversely, if we eat melatonin-rich foods like tart cherries or Goji berries before bedtime, we can assume that sleep might come a little easier.

But, do the connections between our nutrition and sleep go beyond hyper-specific foods that we know make us more energetic or relaxed?

The answer is a resounding YES:

Like many of our bodily functions, our sleep relies on our diet for the nutrition we need for optimal function and performance. This concept sounds simple enough, but it’s hard to overstate its influence on our ability to rest, recharge, and feel our best.

When we fail to adequately supply our body with a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, we prevent our brain from creating the chemical environment it needs to produce the neurotransmitters responsible for an ideal night’s sleep

If this continues for months, years, or decades, our chronic lack of restorative sleep can heighten our stress levels, lead to weight gain, and increase our likelihood of mental health issues. 

On the other hand, if we improve our sleep habits and supercharge our rest, we can enhance our mood, increase our energy levels, and boost our mental, physical, and emotional health.

Eating to Improve Your Sleep

Now that we understand the vital relationship between diet and sleep, let’s dive into the information and tips you need to feel and sleep your best.

In basic terms, our nutrition consists of the foods, drinks, and other supplements we consume that give our body and mind the fuel and nutrients they need to perform their vital functions.

When we reduce this down to a more granular level, we can see that our brain and body rely on nutrition from these three categories to ensure we feel our best and get the healthiest sleep possible:

  • Macronutrients: provide our bodies with calories for energy; serve as building blocks in cell growth and repair as well as proper immune function
    • Primary Examples: healthy carbs, proteins, and fats
    • Vitamins: 13 varieties in total; perform hundreds of roles in our body, such as protecting bones, converting food into energy, improving metabolism, and many others
    • Primary Examples: vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and the eight B vitamins (B1-5, B9, B12)
    • Healthy Minerals: similar to vitamins in amount and variety; help maintain the proper composition of bodily fluids and blood as well as tissues, bones, muscles, and nerves
    • Primary Examples: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc (to name a few)

    Bonus Hack: Many other types of beneficial vitamins come in a variety of delicious, healthy foods. As you further improve your diet, resources like this listing of vitamins from Harvard Medical School can help you find the vitamins you should consume more of -- or cut back on. 

    Breaking Bad Bedtime Habits

    Now that we know the benefits of eating healthy and understand the nutrients our bodies need to support optimal REM sleep, let’s go through some lifestyle tips for using nutrition to benefit our rest:

    • Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol Before Bed: caffeine can make you anxious and overly energetic, making it very difficult to fall asleep. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but you’ll regret it later as it also interrupts your REM cycle and makes you tired the next day
    • Don’t Go to Bed Hungry: feelings of hunger can wake you up throughout the night and make you more likely to experience overactive food cravings when you wake up 
    • Don’t Overeat Before Bed: eating too much before bed can lead to indigestion and/or heartburn, and flooding your body with calories before sleep can lead to sluggish mornings
    • Keep Your Body Hydrated: lack of water can dry out your nasal passages, making you more likely to snore and wake up during the night; don’t overdo it, however, as excess water will wake you up with the need to use the bathroom.

    Using Sleep to Help Your Diet

    In addition to improving our diets to help our sleep, we can improve our sleep technique to help us refine our diet and even reduce our cravings for unhealthy foods.

    If you’re looking to enhance your slumber-time and your diet, here’s some essential guidance for getting better sleep:

    • Eat Wisely Before Bed: as we mentioned earlier, find a healthy balance in your nighttime snacks and meals -- focus on healthy, nutrient-rich foods in moderate quantities.
    • Cut Back on Screen Time: try to put your phone or computer away around two hours before your bedtime to give your mind time to decompress.
    • Find A Consistent Bed and Wake-Up Time: waking up and falling asleep at routinized times will reinforce your body’s circadian rhythm and make it easier to establish a healthy schedule.
    nutritious dressing

    Cleveland Kitchen: Nutritious Food, Great Taste

    Now that you know how proper nutrition can help your sleep, it’s time to explore Cleveland Kitchen’s wide-ranging selection of delicious and nutrient-rich fermented foods!

    From our delicious, crunchy sauerkrauts to our classic, spicy kimchi and our yummy, tangy dressings, our foods are packed with a wide range of healthy macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals to help you perform and sleep at your very best.

    Plant-based, chock-full of probiotics and oodles of umami flavors, our products marry the rich tradition of fermentation with fresh, non-GMO ingredients from local Midwestern farms to ensure you get the taste, nutrition, and value you deserve.

    To learn more about Cleveland Kitchen and our nutrition mission, check out our About Us page, keep up with our blog and check out our YouTube page for tips and how-tos on our delicious and healthy recipes. 

    Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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