Sunday, April 4, 2021

Can you eat better to sleep better?

Does what you eat affect how you sleep?  My daughter sent me an interesting article discussing how the food you eat and the beverages you drink affect how well you sleep.  The author said she tried a new diet and found that she slept better.  She based her “diet” on information she learned from The Sleep Doctor who was on the TODAY show offering advice.  The Sleep Doctor not only has a website offering sleep advice, he also runs an online course, “How to Sleep Better Course”.  Along with the Sleep Doctor a clinical psychologist also provided some diet advice that this article reviewed and the author tried. 


If you want a better night’s sleep, what are some things you might want to try?

1.  Coffee 

a.     Wait 60-90 minutes before your first cup of coffee:  The Sleep Doctor recommends you forgo coffee until 90 minutes after you wake up.  This would be a challenge for many people who grab their cup of coffee almost as soon as their feet hit the floor.  I know it would be a challenge for me.  Why should you put off that 1st morning cup of coffee?  The Sleep Doctor notes that when you sleep and then get up, your body has lots of chemicals in it.  Drinking coffee first thing, just adds to those chemicals.  So, the Sleep Doctor recommends you start your day with a drink of water (lemon water would be great).  You are dehydrated when you wake up so the water is important.  Then wait 90 minutes and enjoy your first cup of coffee.  The author noted she did reach for water when she woke up but could only make it 60 minutes before her first cup of coffee. 

b.    No coffee after 2 PM – This I can do.  I like my caffeinated coffee in the morning but after lunch I switch to decaf coffee if I have coffee at all after lunch.  

No coffee after 2 PM. Switch to decaf after 2 PM.

2.  Don’t overeat – yes, eat until you feel full but don’t overeat.  Overeating can tax your body and this can affect how well you sleep.  In the nutrition class I teach, I recommend not eating late at night and then lying on the couch.  Many people get acid reflux and indigestion (heart burn) if they lay down after eating.  Eating late at night and then going to bed would have the same effect. 

      3.  Focus on protein and complex carbs at meals:  This will help you maintain a more level blood sugar level throughout the day.  Eating protein at meals helps keep you feeling full.  Complex carbs like whole grains, are not only healthy, they won’t spike your blood sugar levels. 

4.   “Avoid foods with high amounts of added sugars” Did you ever really look at how many foods you eat with added sugars?  (See Added Sugars and Risks for Your Health .)  In the class I teach, students are asked to review every food and beverage they eat for added sugars.  Some students eat diets very low in added sugars.  Others have diets surprisingly high in added sugars.  For example, drinking a bottle of sweet tea three times a day, added 570 calories and 144 grams of added sugar to one student’s daily intake.  That is a lot of added sugar calories.  Start to look at the Nutrition Label and look for “added sugars”.  Most nutrition labels now have this information.  I try to save my “added sugars” for desserts and we try to keep added sugars out of our main meal.  Not really easy to do as even many spaghetti sauces have added sugar.     

5.  "Stay hydrated” – yes, you can aim for 8 glasses of water a day. But it doesn’t have to be water.  I wrote a blog on Is water the best for hydration? and surprise, it isn’t just water that keeps you hydrated.  Researchers have found that fat-free milk, whole milk and real orange juice are actually beverages more hydrating than water.  Who would have thought that drinking real milk is a good way to hydrate?  In the classes I teach, students often think they have to give their kids water at meals and often water in place of milk.  Not true.  The kids will hydrate just fine with a glass of milk and they will also get important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D that water doesn’t provide. 

Real milk is great for hydration.

What are some foods that can help you sleep and what are some foods to avoid?

Foods that help you sleep:

  • Turkey, chicken
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios
  • Rice – choose brown rice as it is whole grain
  • Salmon
  • Spinach, avocado
  • Bananas, cherries, kiwi

Foods that may disrupt your sleep:

  •  Drinks with added sugar – soft drinks, sweet tea, sports drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine – coffee, tea, some soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Processed foods high in fat and/or sugar

So how did the author do trying the “sleep diet” for a week?  She claimed she was sleeping much better.  She even noted she felt more focused during the day and could pay better attention.  The Sleep Doctor notes that when you get enough sleep, your mood is better throughout the day as most of us know from experience.  He calls it “mood-stable”. 

If you want to sleep better this week, try some of these ideas.  Make a comment and let us know what worked for you and what didn’t.

Sources:  article , The Sleep Doctor , How to Sleep Better Course” , clinical psychologist , Added Sugars and Risks for Your Health , Is water the best for hydration?   Image Sources:  Coffee , Milk, Sleep


  1. Ooohhh! Now this has some heavy calories dear friends, like real heavy calories! It is a 2000 Calorie Diabetic Diet Plan great for the muscular giants to satisfy their hunger cravings and simultaneously maintain blood sugar levels in their bodies if they are diabetic.

    1. For good information on diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association at