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How Sleep Impacts Our Diet and Vice Versa






In our fast-paced world, where productivity often takes precedence over rest, the importance of sleep in maintaining overall health is frequently overlooked.


Many people seem to forget — or maybe rather want to deny, how crucial sleep is to our bodies because of how little sleep they usually get due to a busy work-life. This is understandable but it doesn’t disregard the fact that it is generally very unhealthy.


While we understand the significance of a nutritious diet, we may not fully appreciate the profound impact that sleep – or lack of it – can have on our food choices and overall well-being. 


So in this blog, I want to talk about the relationship between sleep and nutrition, shedding light on how sleep influences our dietary habits and vice versa.



The Sleep-Nutrition Connection


It's no secret that a lack of sleep can leave us feeling groggy and irritable, but its effects extend far beyond mere fatigue. 


Research has shown that inadequate sleep can disrupt hunger hormones, leading to increased cravings for high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods. Additionally, sleep deprivation has been linked to impaired glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, long-term heightening the risk of weight gain and metabolic disorders like diabetes and heart disease.



The Impact on Food Choices





Ever noticed how your food cravings seem to change for the worse when you're sleep-deprived? It's not just a coincidence – there's science behind it.


Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of hormones that regulate appetite, leading to an increased desire for sugary snacks and processed foods. This phenomenon can mess up even the seemingly “easiest” dietary plans, making it way more challenging to resist the allure of unhealthy indulgences.


On the other hand, prioritising quality sleep can help curb cravings and promote healthier food choices. When adequately rested, we're more likely to go for nutrient-dense foods that provide sustained energy and satiety, rather than relying on quick-fix snacks to combat fatigue.




The Importance of Sleep Hygiene


Achieving restorative sleep requires more than just crashing into bed – it involves cultivating healthy sleep habits, known as sleep hygiene. 


Some key practices to promote quality sleep include:


  • Establishing a consistent sleep schedule

  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine

  • Optimising your sleep environment

  • Limiting screen time

  • Watching what you eat and when you eat before sleep



The Deal With Screens & Sleep




You've probably heard to not look at screens before sleep, and this is why;


Exposure to blue light in the evening disrupts the body's natural circadian rhythm, tricking the brain into thinking it's still daytime. This suppression of melatonin production makes it harder to fall asleep and can result in poorer sleep quality overall. By reducing screen time before bed, you allow your body to naturally wind down and prepare for sleep.


In addition to the physiological effects of blue light, the content we consume on screens before bed can also impact our ability to relax and fall asleep. Social media, news updates, and engaging videos can be mentally stimulating, making it difficult to quiet the mind and transition into sleep mode. 



Constant exposure to screens before bed can also create a psychological association between bedtime and stimulating activities. Over time, this association can make it harder to mentally disengage from electronics and unwind before sleep.

 

Research has also shown that people who use electronic devices before bed tend to experience more difficulty falling asleep and may have disrupted sleep patterns throughout the night. If your melatonin takes longer to kick in at night, the healthy rise in cortisol in the morning which should give us our get in go will be delayed. This can lead to feelings of grogginess and fatigue upon waking, impacting overall daytime functioning and cognitive performance. 


In conclusion, you should probably read a book instead of looking at your TV or phone screen — or if that's not possible, use “Night Mode” or blue light filters on your screens if you want to make it easier for yourself to maintain a healthy diet.



Eating Before Sleep


Choosing what and when to eat before sleep can significantly impact sleep quality and overall well-being as well.


Eating large or heavy meals shortly before bedtime can lead to digestive discomfort, including bloating, indigestion, and acid reflux. 


Consuming sugary or high-carbohydrate foods before bed can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes and disrupted sleep patterns. These foods may provide a temporary boost in energy but ultimately disrupt sleep quality by causing spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels throughout the night.


The body's ability to absorb nutrients from food is compromised during sleep, as digestion slows down and metabolic processes shift to support rest and repair. 


On your last meal of the day, go for whole, minimally processed foods rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins, to nourish your body and support restorative sleep.


Opting for no food at least one to two hours before bed — or at least lighter, easily digestible snacks can help prevent digestive issues and promote restful sleep, ultimately leading to more self control in maintaining a healthy diet the next day.



Conclusion


Now that you understand the essential link between sleep and nutrition, it's clear how vital they are for maintaining good health. It's not just about hitting the gym or thinking counting calories is the answer or relying simply on pure willpower – it's about recognizing the impact that both quality sleep and a balanced diet have on our overall well-being.


So let's commit to prioritising both. Whether it's establishing a regular sleep schedule or choosing nutrient-rich foods, let's give our bodies the care it needs. By doing so, we're laying the foundation for a healthier, more productive, and overall better life.


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