How Does Nutrition Affect Sleep

Find out how nutrition, sleep, and weight loss are connected!
Published March 18, 2022

Nutrition and sleep are intrinsically connected and the relationship between sleep and weight loss is a natural extension of this union. In this article, you’ll learn about all three factors and how you can eat for optimal nutrition and your best sleep ever.

What is the Definition of Nutrition?

Before discussing the relationship between sleep and nutrition, it’s important to have a working definition of what the term nutrition is referring to. The word nutrition applies to food and beverages that fuel the human body so that it can function properly. There are three main categories of nutrients to consider: macronutrients (which include fat, protein, and carbohydrates), vitamins, and minerals. Eating a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods is the best way to get all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and strong. A diet lacking in nutrients can have an effect on your body’s ability to heal, your immune system, and your quality of sleep.

How Does Nutrition Affect Sleep?

Research has shown that nutritionally balanced diets which are high in nutrients and lower in saturated fat, simple carbohydrates (such as sugar or flour), and salt are beneficial to quality of sleep. An eating plan that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will go a long way towards maintaining and even improving your current sleep quality.

A deficiency in certain nutrients, specifically calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, can negatively impact your sleep. If you find yourself struggling with poor sleep, talk to your doctor about the possibility of getting your nutrient levels checked. While many nutrients can be obtained through diet, you may need to seek out vitamin-enriched foods or supplements for certain vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D, for example, is difficult for most Canadians to get via sunlight and should be supplemented.

Inadequate sleep and nutrition can also affect hormone levels, some of which control hunger and appetite. These same factors also contribute to our daily well-being, ability to concentrate, and make decisions — all important factors that influence dietary choices.

How Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?

The relationship between sleep and weight loss is undeniably linked, as several studies have shown. Short sleepers, who are characterized as sleeping for less than 7 hours each night, are more likely to consume excess food without increasing physical activity as a response to insufficient sleep. Short sleepers also tend to eat from a smaller variety of foods, often limiting protein, carbohydrates, fat, and dietary fibre. This same study found that slowly increasing the amount of sleep for its subject was highly beneficial for weight loss, with the likelihood of successful weight loss increasing by 33 percent. Another link between sleep and weight loss? Well-rested individuals are more likely to incorporate daily movement into their routine, which is an important factor when weight loss is a goal.

Pulling it All Together: Nutrition for Sleep and Weight Loss

  • Eat a variety of nutritious food each day, focusing on fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, lean meats and dairy (or plant-based alternatives), fish and seafood, and whole grains.
  • Avoid spicy foods, alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, and heavy foods before bedtime.
  • If you enjoy a snack before bed, reach for foods and beverages that have been shown to improve sleep such as almonds, turkey, Greek yogurt, warm milk with honey, or chamomile tea.
  • Work with a doctor, therapist, or sleep coach to improve sleep quality.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene: make sure the bedroom is cool (around 18° C) and dark, use a weighted blanket and/or eye mask, keep your phone and any other electronic devices in the next room, and try to develop a regular bedtime routine you can look forward to each night.