Sleep Health

How to eat your way to better sleep


Sleep may be the last thing on your mind when you tucked into that delicious peri-peri fried chicken burger with extra wedges at lunchtime. But what you eat during the day can have an effect on how well you sleep at night. Learn how to eat well and sleep well. Your body will reward you with a good night’s sleep.

Making meal choices based on calorie counting or nutritional value will help keep your weight in check.  But have you ever considered that your food choices might also affect the quality of your sleep?

The three meals you choose each day – as well as any snacks you throw into your daily diet – go a long way to affecting your health as a whole and not just your waistline!

When it comes to making good food choices, your body's need for a good night's sleep should also be on your mind. Let's face it – it should go without saying that scoffing a pizza before retiring for the evening isn't exactly a recipe for a restful night. To make sure you're eating balanced meals that will benefit you all day and well into the night, there are certain foods you should look out for – as well as some that you should try to avoid altogether.

Eat right to sleep tonight!

You might not think about it while eating your lunch in broad daylight, but nutrition plays an essential role in our sleep. If you want to align your diet to have the most optimal sleep, aim to eat more foods or drinks that boost your brain’s level of serotonin, a serenity-boosting neurotransmitter.1  While some foods contain serotonin, they may not help because the serotonin in them won’t make it through your gut to your brain. However, you can sidestep this problem. Eating certain foods encourages the production of healthy gut bacteria which can in turn, happily produce serotonin for your brain to enjoy.2

The foods you want to add are the high fibre carbs such as wholegrain pasta, brown rice and chickpeas. Pairing these wholegrains with your evening meal is a good foundation for sleep and will give those gut bacteria plenty to chew on.

Also, add these items to your grocery list:

  • Herbal tea: Sit back and start sipping! You can't go wrong with herbal tea such as chamomile or peppermint. Although most herbal teas don't contain caffeine, some do so check the label before you buy it. Herbal teas are natural remedies known to help you relax.
  • Warm milk: If that's not your cup of tea, why not try some warm skimmed milk. Having a comforting drink like this will encourage the onset of sleep. After all, there's a reason parents heat up a bottle before putting a baby to bed - hopefully you'll be sleeping like a baby in no time!
  • Nuts, seeds and bananas: Not only are these healthy snack foods easy to munch on, they're also proven to be rich in magnesium – an effective relaxation mineral.3

You don't want to be reaching for certain munchies around midnight

Just as there are foods that help you sleep others may work against you and can be detrimental when it's time to get some shut-eye:

  • Foods high in saturated fat: Here's another reason to put down the fast food – research shows that not only will foods high in saturated fat make you pile on the kilos, they’ll also affect your sleep cycle4 due to their effect on your digestion.
  • Spicy foods: Any foods which can cause reflux or indigestion may also interrupt your sleep or make it near impossible to rest. Spicy food also contains capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli peppers, and this affects sleep via changes in body temperature.
  • Alcohol: You might think that downing a nightcap before bedtime might help you sleep, but research has busted that myth. While you might feel sleepy after an evening wine, alcohol actually reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and is disruptive to your overall night's rest.5 The more a person drinks before bed, the stronger the sleep disruption. So do yourself a favour and pass on that extra glass after dinner.
  • Caffeinated beverages: Caffeine is a drug that acts as a stimulant and will affect you both mentally and physically. If you're slugging back coffee, caffeinated soft drinks or even eating chocolate (which contains caffeine), you might find it harder to sleep. Caffeine can disrupt your digestive process – and it has the added side effect of waking you up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom!

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But wait, there’s more…

Now that you've got the naughty and nice list for your sleep-inducing diet, you might want to do some further reading. While a diet overhaul can benefit your rest, there are other things you can do to ensure you are well rested – firstly, you can read our eBook '8 ways to sleep better tonight' which is jam-packed with advice that will help ensure you're sleeping soundly as soon as possible.

There's also something else you should keep in mind: There's not much benefit in making optimal food choices if you're overindulging on them.

Eating too much may not only lead to weight gain due to a blow out in calorie consumption, but it can be detrimental in getting a good night's sleep. When you sleep, you're actually allowing your body to go to work and digest everything it's consumed – so if you gorge too much throughout the day, you'll be in for an interrupted night as your body literally tries to stomach the day's takings!

The lesson? Cut down to healthy portion sizes and eat right to sleep tonight.

Interestingly, if you've had a good night's rest, you're more likely to be happier and less hungry – resulting in better food choices the next day so you can enjoy a cycle of good food -– and great sleep!

Is food just a small part of your sleep issues?

While food does have some impact on the quality and quantity of sleep we get, sleep issues can have a lot of contributing causes. If you are having issues with your sleep, the tips in this article may help, but you may want to look into other factors affecting your rest. Find out what might be affecting your sleep by taking our free online sleep assessment or learn more about home sleep tests.

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