The Link Between Food and Sleep

Change your diet, improve your sleep


A bowl of spicy chili late at night may give you nightmares (or at least heartburn), but scientists are being to understand that what you eat overall—your daily and long-term diet—contributes to your sleep patterns more than was previously thought.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine explored the connection between what we eat and our sleep patterns.

Short sleepers (5 to 6 hours per night) consumed the most calories. Very short sleepers (less than 5 hours per night) consumed the least amount of calories.

Normal sleepers (those who enjoyed 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly) were more likely to eat the most balanced diet with the greatest variety of food. Very short sleepers tended not to have a balanced diet. 

Several nutrients played a central role in sleep patterns:

  • Lycopenes (found in red or orange foods, such as tomatoes), total carbohydrates, and less tap water contributed to very short sleep.
  • Lower levels of selenium (found in meat, nuts, and shellfish) and vitamin C were associated with short sleep.
  • Lower levels of theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), choline (in eggs and fatty meats), dodecanoic acid (saturated fat) and more alcohol and carbohydrates made for long sleep (more than 9 hours per night).

So what's the take-home message?

“Short and long sleep are associated with lower food variety,” summarized Michael Grandner, PhD, member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

It turns out not only is variety the spice of life, it helps you sleep better too!  



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