It's well-known that a heavy meal right before bed can give you heartburn and upset your sleep. But new research suggests that the effects of diet on sleep are much more far-reaching, but that how you should eat for better sleep is thankfully in line with common sense. Especially if you have complaints about your energy levels already, trying a sleep-friendly diet is worth a try, and it appears to work quite quickly too.
Researchers from Columbia University's medical center examined 26 men and women (with an average age of 35) for five nights in their sleep lab. They spent nine hours in bed each of the five nights, tending to sleep for about 7.5 of them. For the first three days, the participants were fed nutritionist-chosen and nutritionist-administered meals. For the remainder of the study, they ate what they wanted.
As published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, there was a big difference in sleep quality between the controlled diet period and the uncontrolled diet period. The nutritionists' diet (higher in protein and fiber and lower in saturated fat than the self-chosen diet) was correlated with a significantly shorter time taken to fall asleep, and a longer portion of the night spent in deep sleep. In contrast, the participants' chosen diet (which also contained more sugar) was associated with less restorative sleep and more sleep disruptions. Not good.
Since these effects seemed to emerge quickly, it's well worth giving a sleep-promoting diet a try to see how it impacts you. Aim for higher protein (with less saturated fat), more fiber, and less sugar than whatever you were eating before (this diet might improve sleep because it regulates your blood sugar levels around the clock better than a standard American diet, with its blood sugar surge-causing properties). If you do try the experiment, keep some notes about what you ate when and how your sleep went so you can identify the correlation clearly.