Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. But what if this didn’t just mean your physical appearance? While there’s no scientific proof that the foods you consume directly interfere with your dreams, there’s no denying that there’s a connection between food and dreams. If you’ve ever woken up from a bizarre and vivid dream, it’s possible that the food you had before you went to sleep has affected your dreams.

Read our article, ‘Eat Well to Sleep Well‘, to find out what foods can improve your sleep.

What’s the Connection Between Food and Sleep?

Food affects a lot of areas of your body. Your stomach, brain functionality, and how well you sleep are just a handful of ways that food can affect your overall wellbeing.1 When you consider how your digestive system has a say in almost everything your body goes through, it’s understandable then that it’s not always what you eat, but when you eat.

It could be that certain foods can upset your body and wake you up during the night. This makes it more likely for you to remember your vivid dreams. J. Catesby Ware, PhD., Chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA suggests that the general rule of thumb is that you need to wake up “within five minutes of having a dream to recall it”.2 So, if you’re suffering from indigestion, your body will not settle enough for you to go into a deep sleep. Dining on a big meal shortly before going to bed will boost your body’s temperature and metabolism. This’ll result in more brain activity during the REM stage of sleep – the sleep stage where you dream.

A lot of specific food groups and items have been connected to how you dream, what you dream about, and whether or not you wake up remembering your nightly adventures. Find out what foods can affect your dreams below.

Foods That Can Affect Your Dreams

Spicy Food

Spicy food can cause indigestion, which makes you stir more. This’ll make you more likely to remember your dream. So, it’s not that you’ve had a dream that’s more bizarre than usual; you’re just remembering this one. Spicy food can also raise your body temperature. This makes falling asleep more challenging, and your sleep will be a bit more restless than normal. When this happens, your dreams could become more chaotic and disjointed as you aren’t experiencing REM sleep as you should.

Dairy Products

Dairy is the better known food group that can affect your dreams. A study in 2015 investigated how food influences dreams by issuing a three-part questionnaire to 396 college students in Canada. The results showed that the most frequent foods that were blamed for the disturbing (44%) and bizarre (39%) dreams were cheese, milk, and ice cream.3 This could be a tough one to swallow – who doesn’t love cheese? The good news is that cheese doesn’t necessarily cause nightmares, it just makes your dreams more vivid. Stilton cheese in particular can lead to dreams that are more bizarre than usual.4

Baked Goods

In the 2015 study mentioned above, 31% of participants reported that they had bizarre dreams after they had eaten sugary foods, like cookies and cake.5

Chocolate

Chocolate is high in caffeine. Just as you should avoid drinking coffee in the evening, you should avoid nibbling on that chocolate bar. Caffeine will keep you alert when you want to be sleepy, and it’ll prevent you from falling into a deep, restful sleep.

Plus, chocolate has also been linked to nightmares in a BBC report – mainly due to its levels of caffeine. The good news is that there’s no evidence of a link between eating chocolate and violent sleep patterns in the general population. Instead, it could be related to Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD), a sleep disorder in which sleepers unknowingly thrash about and shout in their sleep.

Chocolate-stimulated RBD has been documented by Robert Vorona of the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. Vorona suggests that the caffeine in chocolate can block a natural process called atonia. Atonia paralyses the body while you’re sleeping so that you can dream safely. When this is blocked, the sleeper is free to move about and act out their dream. So, avoiding chocolate before going to bed is good for minimising your caffeine intake and improving your sleep – whether you’ve got RBD or not.6

Greasy Food

The later in the day you enjoy greasy food, the more likely you are to have nightmares. Grease can cause indigestion, and your body will need time to digest it and settle. If you eat takeout close to bedtime, you could find that you don’t fall into a deep sleep. If you want a yummy snack late in the evening, choose baked food instead of fried food. Or, opt for fruit and vegetables for more relaxing dreams.7

Pasta and Bread

Participants in the 2015 study who had pasta or bread before going to bed claimed to have had upsetting dreams. This isn’t surprising when you think of how sugar consumption can have the same effect. It’s not very well-known, but carbohydrates can actually convert to glucose in the body.8 Try to eat your carbohydrates earlier in the day so that your body has time to process them before you settle in for a snooze.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

According to Dr. Gary Wenk, professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the Ohio State University and Medical Centre, this sandwich is actually ideal if you want your brain to sleep a bit more soundly. He highlights that the bread and jelly are “great sources of simple carbohydrates” – while these are normally terrible, they’re “great for sleep”.9 You could end up with a few sweet dreams by snacking on this classic.

Bananas

Bananas aren’t just a great source for potassium. They also cause really vivid dreams if you eat them close to bedtime. This seems to be due to the B6 vitamin in them. B6 converts tryptophan into serotonin, which plays a role in helping the brain remain a bit alert during the REM stage of the sleep cycle. This can lead to greater dream intensity and recall.10

Garlic

While garlic has plenty of health benefits, it’s actually something that you’ll probably want to avoid before going to sleep. Not only will you be able to taste it no matter how many times you brush your teeth, but garlic can cause heartburn. This will disturb your sleep. Plus, people have reported that garlic seems to make their dreams a lot crazier.11

Are There Drinks That Affect Your Dreams?

Caffeine can give you some crazy and vivid dreams, so you could avoid drinking coffee or fizzy drinks before going to bed. Plus, caffeine could also keep you from getting a restful snooze if it’s consumed too late in the evening, as it’ll keep you alert when you should be sleepy.

Also, while they’re often thought to be the better choice, many bottled juices are just as bad as fizzy drinks. Lauren Kelly, MS, RD, CDN of Kelly Wellness in New York City warns that juice can have “even more sugar than a comparably sized soda”.12 If you drink juice, it’s better to have it earlier in the day, and dilute it with a little bit of water.

Plus, alcohol can also affect your sleep and dreams. The dreams you have the night after you’ve had a few drinks can be scarier than the hangover itself. Drinking alcohol before bed can make it more difficult to fall into a deep sleep, but participants in the 2015 study also reported nightmares and stressful dreams after knocking back a few.13

Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. But what if this didn’t just mean your physical appearance? While there’s no scientific proof that the foods you consume directly interfere with your dreams, there’s no denying that there’s a connection between food...

Five Drinks That You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed

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Eating well is not only a good way to help your mental and physical health, but it’ll keep you sleeping well, too. Knowing what food you should, and shouldn’t, eat can help you make sure that you’re enjoying a good sleep. Read this article for a break-down of what...

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Five Drinks That You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed

Five Drinks That You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed

We all experience a restless night now and again. Worrying thoughts, stresses for the day ahead, or pre-existing health conditions can keep us awake at night-time. But did you know that some drinks can also keep you from getting the sleep you need? The wrong drink can affect the quality of your sleep, delay your body clock, and fragment your sleep.

Alcohol

Let me guess – you know that alcohol can make you feel drowsy, so why should you avoid it? Well, alcohol doesn’t help you sleep as much as you think it does – it actually interferes with it. Drinking alcohol in the evening will make you need to go to the toilet during the night, so you’ll wake up more often and won’t be able to enjoy the undisrupted sleep that your needs after a long day. This easily affects your sleep pattern, which makes it harder for you to get the right amount of sleep. Alcohol also decreases your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep,1 so you’re not falling into the most important sleep phase. Plus, drinking alcohol regularly can lead to insomnia, which makes sleeping well even more challenging. As well as this, heavy drinking can also worsen severity of breathing problems during your sleep, leading to snoring and sleep apnoea.2

You can find out more about insomnia here, or check out our article on snoring and sleep apnoea here. Also, you can read more about alcohol’s effect on your sleep in our article, ‘Alcoholism and Sleep’.

Coffee

The first cup of coffee in the morning helps to raise your alertness and will get you ready for the day ahead. However, drinking coffee during the day – especially in the evening – can harm the quality of your sleep by delaying your body clock. One study found that drinking caffeine six hours before bedtime reduced the total sleep time by one hour.3 As caffeine will keep you alert, you won’t feel tired enough to sleep when you need to. This, and the reduced sleep time, can lead to sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue, which will only make you want to drink more coffee. Therefore, it’s a good idea to limit your caffeine intake to the mornings and early afternoons.

Energy Drinks

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t have an energy drink before going to bed. Energy drinks have extremely high levels of caffeine in them – even two to three times more caffeine than coffee or fizzy drinks!4 Because of this, these drinks will keep you awake when you should be sleeping, reducing the total time that you’re asleep and harming the quality of your sleep.

Fizzy Drinks

Fizzy drinks are bursting with caffeine and loads of sugar. The caffeine in them will keep you alert when you want to go to sleep, making you restless. Plus, the sugar levels may affect your ability to stay asleep. When there’s an excess of glucose in your blood, your body draws water from your tissues. This can make you feel dehydrated, prompting you to get up during the night for glasses of water. Also, you’re more likely to get up to go to the bathroom as your kidneys try to get rid of extra sugar by urinating. These constant interruptions to your sleep will interfere with the quality of your sleep.5

Water

Surprisingly, you should avoid drinking water before your bedtime. In healthy young adults, your urine output is lower at night than during the day. This helps to keep you from waking up to go to the bathroom during the night. If you drink too much water in the evening, this balance could be disrupted so you’ll wake up and need to use the bathroom during the night.6 This will damage the quality of your sleep, and could keep you from getting the deep, restorative sleep that you need. Drink plenty of water during the day to avoid dehydration but drink less water in the evening to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Are There Drinks That Help You Sleep?

Fortunately, there’s a variety of sleep-inducing drinks that can help you to catch those all-important snoozes. Some drinks that can help you to improve your sleep naturally are:

  • Cherry juice
  • Chamomile tea
  • Valerian tea
  • Peppermint tea
  • Warm milk
  • Almond milk7

Not only do drinks affect our sleep, but food, too. Have a look at our article, ‘Eat Well to Sleep Well‘, to find out how what you eat affects how you sleep.

Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. But what if this didn’t just mean your physical appearance? While there’s no scientific proof that the foods you consume directly interfere with your dreams, there’s no denying that there’s a connection between food...

Five Drinks That You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed

We all experience a restless night now and again. Worrying thoughts, stresses for the day ahead, or pre-existing health conditions can keep us awake at night-time. But did you know that some drinks can also keep you from getting the sleep you need? The wrong drink can...

Eat Well to Sleep Well

Eating well is not only a good way to help your mental and physical health, but it’ll keep you sleeping well, too. Knowing what food you should, and shouldn’t, eat can help you make sure that you’re enjoying a good sleep. Read this article for a break-down of what...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

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Whether it’s after a festive break, working towards a beach-ready body, or you just wanted to be a bit healthier, we all find ourselves trying to lose weight now and again. If you need to lose weight, dieting and exercise are good ways to start. However, not being...

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Eat Well to Sleep Well

Eat Well to Sleep Well

Eating well is not only a good way to help your mental and physical health, but it’ll keep you sleeping well, too. Knowing what food you should, and shouldn’t, eat can help you make sure that you’re enjoying a good sleep. Read this article for a break-down of what foods help you sleep, and what foods you should avoid.

What’s the Best Food for Sleep?

Foods that are rich in tryptophan, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, melatonin, and vitamin B6 will promote quality sleep.1

Tryptophan-rich Foods

Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin induces a deeper and more restful sleep by creating melatonin, the hormone that dictates your sleep-wake cycle. Foods rich in tryptophan include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Beans

These foods are also rich in protein. Protein-rich foods offer additional benefits, such as reducing appetite and hunger, reducing any cravings and desire for late-night snacking, boosting your metabolism and increasing fat burning. They also help to maintain weight loss.2

Carbohydrate-rich Foods

Food that is rich in carbohydrates help people to sleep, especially when eaten at dinnertime. This is because carbohydrate-rich foods also include tryptophan. Carbohydrate-rich foods include:

  • Rice
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Yoghurt
  • Milk
  • Ice Cream
  • Potatoes

Calcium-rich Foods

Calcium-rich food will also help you sleep. This is because calcium also helps the brain to use tryptophan, and is linked directly to our sleep cycle.3 Calcium isn’t restricted to dairy products, and can be found in:

  • Yoghurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Kale
  • Leafy greens, including broccoli and cabbage
  • Tofu
  • Sardines

In a study published by the European Neurology Journal, researchers reported increased levels of calcium during REM sleep. They concluded that disturbed REM sleep was more likely to occur when there was a calcium deficiency, since undisturbed sleep was regained after calcium levels returned to normal.4

Magnesium-rich Foods

Maintaining normal levels of magnesium can also help you sleep through the night. A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that low levels of magnesium can disrupt sleep5. This is because magnesium maintains healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep, to support a deep, restorative sleep.6 Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Whole grains, especially bulgur and barley
  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Seeds
  • Salmon
  • Bananas
  • Leafy greens

Melatonin-rich Foods

Melatonin is a hormone that signals to your body when it’s time to fall asleep, and when it’s time to be awake. It works with your circadian rhythm, or inner body clock, to work out your sleep-wake cycle. If the production of melatonin is harmed or limited, then you will struggle to get to sleep. Therefore, melatonin is key to a good snooze. Melatonin is naturally produced by your body, but it can also be found in food, such as:

  • Cherries
  • Walnuts
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Broccoli
  • Rice

Vitamin B6-rich Foods

Vitamin B6 helps your body to create neurotransmitters. These chemicals promote good sleep quality by helping your body to produce melatonin.7 Vitamin B6 is commonly found in:

  • Fish – particularly salmon, tuna, and halibut
  • Raw garlic
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas

What’s the Worst Food for Sleep?

If you want to get a good sleep, it would be good to avoid spicy foods, overly fatty foods, and sugary junk foods.8 It’s best to avoid these foods at dinnertime.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods could disrupt your sleep. The capsaicin in child peppers and other spicy food can increase your internal body temperature, which needs to be lower in order for you to have a restful sleep. Spicy foods also tend to have higher fat levels, and these require more time for your body to process. If you eat spicy food too close to bedtime, your body expends energy in digestion instead of helping your brain fall asleep.9

Overly Fatty Foods

Fatty foods have been shown to disrupt sleep and upset your circadian rhythm. As a result, you might find yourself sleeping during the day and getting hungrier at night. Columbia University researchers found that people with a diet that’s low in fibre and high in saturated fat are more likely to experience lighter sleep and more night-time awakenings.10

Sugary and Junk Foods

Sugary desserts and junk food are incredibly tempting, but they’re also infamous for causing weight gain. They’re unhealthy at any time of the day, but they can be especially dangerous at night-time. This is because they can trigger late-night cravings and higher calorie-intake than your body actually needs.11

Plus, these foods cause weight gain, which can put someone at risk of developing Sleep Apnoea. Sleep Apnoea is a breathing disorder in which someone’s breathing is briefly interrupted while they’re sleeping. This will wake them up momentarily, but the person usually goes back to sleep. While they may have no memory of waking up, their breathing can be interrupted hundreds of times a night. These frequent moments of waking can interrupt their sleep, leading to fatigue and sleep deprivation.

If someone is overweight, this increased weight can put more pressure on the airways and make it more difficult to breathe during the night. This doesn’t help your sleep quality at all, and will lead to sleep deprivation and weight gain. Avoiding sugary and junk foods means you’ll avoid gaining weight, so you’ll avoid this risk of Sleep Apnoea. Read more about Sleep Apnoea in our article here.

Insomnia and Your Diet

If you’re struggling with insomnia, make sure you avoid overly spicy, fatty, or sugary foods. Instead, eat a dinner made of foods rich in carbohydrates and tryptophan. A small snack of yoghurt or a warm glass of milk may prove relaxing and help you sleep, especially when taken regularly as part of a regular bedtime routine.12

How Late Can You Eat Before You Go to Bed?

If you want to sleep better at night, have dinner two to four hours before your bedtime. It’s not a good idea to go to bed on a full stomach. This is because it’s difficult for the rest of your body to settle down when your body is digesting food.13

Not only does food affect our sleep, but drinks can, too. Have a look at our article, ‘Five Drinks You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed‘, to find out how what you drink affects how you sleep.

Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. But what if this didn’t just mean your physical appearance? While there’s no scientific proof that the foods you consume directly interfere with your dreams, there’s no denying that there’s a connection between food...

Five Drinks That You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed

We all experience a restless night now and again. Worrying thoughts, stresses for the day ahead, or pre-existing health conditions can keep us awake at night-time. But did you know that some drinks can also keep you from getting the sleep you need? The wrong drink can...

Eat Well to Sleep Well

Eating well is not only a good way to help your mental and physical health, but it’ll keep you sleeping well, too. Knowing what food you should, and shouldn’t, eat can help you make sure that you’re enjoying a good sleep. Read this article for a break-down of what...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Does Dieting Affect Your Sleep?

Whether it’s after a festive break, working towards a beach-ready body, or you just wanted to be a bit healthier, we all find ourselves trying to lose weight now and again. If you need to lose weight, dieting and exercise are good ways to start. However, not being...

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Sleep Expert Sammy Margo Reveals The Ultimate Slimming Secret The New Year is undoubtedly the time to kick-start a healthy diet regime and weight loss programme. But what if your quality of sleep were to influence the results you see on the scales? In 2007, a study...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just not eat any chocolate instead of walking. However, there’s more to exercising than just losing a bit of weight. If you’re exercising regularly, you may find that not only do you feel better during the day, but you’re sleeping better during the night, too. This is because exercise can massively improve the quality of your sleep – it’s not just a myth.

How Can Exercise Affect Your Sleep?

There are many benefits of exercise when it comes to your sleep – especially regular exercise. Exercise can …

Improve Your Sleep Quality

Exercising regularly can contribute to a more restful and restorative sleep, which you always need at the end of each day. Physical activity increases the time you spend in deep sleep, the most restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost your immune system, support cardiac health, and can also help to control stress and anxiety levels.1

Increase the Length of Your Sleep

Exercise can also help you to increase how long you sleep for. Being physically active during the day requires you to expend energy, so you’ll feel more tired in the evening. This means that you’ll be ready to sleep when you go to bed – no more tossing and turning while you watch the clock tick. Going to sleep easily also means you’ll feel more refreshed in the morning.

Reduce Levels of Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common causes of sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. When you’re stressed or anxious, you’re less likely to fall into a deep sleep that restores your body after a long day, making you more tired and irritable. This in turn can keep you awake at night. However, exercise is a natural remedy for both stress and anxiety. Just five minutes of exercise can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body, such as reducing fatigue and improving your alertness and concentration.2

Plus, it doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise – even mind-body exercises can help, like yoga. Yoga can help to quiet the parasympathetic nervous system, which can encourage you to relax. Yoga will also lower your cortisol levels and reduce blood pressure, as well as having a positive affect on your mood.3 If you’re feeling better, you’re more likely to want to go outside and exercise – and this will help you sleep well at night-time.

Help with Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders

Scientific evidence suggests that exercise can also be an effective natural remedy for insomnia.4 Insomnia is a sleeping disorder in which someone has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting up in the morning. As insomnia is largely due to stress and anxiety, exercising regularly helps ease these symptoms so that you can enjoy a restful snooze. Exercise can also help lower the severity of sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder which interrupts your breathing and sleep, and Restless Leg Syndrome.

You can read more about these sleep disorders in our topics, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Restless Leg Syndrome’, and our article about sleep apnoea here.

Improve Your Sleep-Wake Cycle

Exercising in the early morning and afternoon may also help to reset your sleep-wake cycle to improve your sleep. This is because exercising will raise your body temperature. If you exercise in the earlier parts of the day, your body temperature will drop and trigger sleepiness in the evening. This encourages you to sleep when you go to bed. Also, exercising outdoors when the sun is out will let your body absorb natural sunlight. This is important for your circadian rhythm – an inner clock that dictates when you’ll feel tired and when you’ll be alert. As the circadian rhythm is influenced by sunlight, exercising outdoors when the sun is out is a great way to help the quality of your sleep. Read more about the circadian rhythm here.

Watch the Clock

When you’re exercising, make sure you’re not doing it too close to bedtime. Exercising in the evening or within a few hours of going to bed could actually keep you awake. This is because exercise will leave you feeling energised and stimulated. You don’t want to feel like this when you’re trying to get to sleep, so avoid exercising within five hours of going to bed.

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Sleep Well?

According to the NHS, adults aged between 19 and 64 should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week – or thirty-minute sessions, five days a week. This could be walking, dancing, riding a bike, or even pushing a lawnmower. If you’re doing more vigorous exercising, like strengthening activities (lifting weights, push ups, etc.), then you should be doing these on at least two days of the week.5

You don’t have to be lifting weights at the gym to sleep well – a walk is just as effective. It’s up to you what kind of exercise you want to do. Talking to your doctor is a good way to find out what kind of exercise is right for you. Whether it’s lifting weights or a casual walk with a furry friend, regular exercise will help you get the sleep you need at the end of each day.

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Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. But what if this didn’t just mean your physical appearance? While there’s no scientific proof that the foods you consume directly interfere with your dreams, there’s no denying that there’s a connection between food...

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We all experience a restless night now and again. Worrying thoughts, stresses for the day ahead, or pre-existing health conditions can keep us awake at night-time. But did you know that some drinks can also keep you from getting the sleep you need? The wrong drink can...

Eat Well to Sleep Well

Eating well is not only a good way to help your mental and physical health, but it’ll keep you sleeping well, too. Knowing what food you should, and shouldn’t, eat can help you make sure that you’re enjoying a good sleep. Read this article for a break-down of what...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Does Dieting Affect Your Sleep?

Whether it’s after a festive break, working towards a beach-ready body, or you just wanted to be a bit healthier, we all find ourselves trying to lose weight now and again. If you need to lose weight, dieting and exercise are good ways to start. However, not being...

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Does Dieting Affect Your Sleep?

Does Dieting Affect Your Sleep?

Whether it’s after a festive break, working towards a beach-ready body, or you just wanted to be a bit healthier, we all find ourselves trying to lose weight now and again. If you need to lose weight, dieting and exercise are good ways to start. However, not being mindful of how you diet and how you exercise can cause a variety of sleep issues. This’ll keep you from getting the sleep you need. Good sleep helps to control your weight so, if you’re not sleeping well, you could actually gain weight instead – the complete opposite of what you’re working towards. We all know the frustrations of gaining weight when we’re trying to lose it. In this article, you’ll find out about the connection between dieting and sleep, and how you can help yourself to reach your weight goal.

What’s the Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain?

Poor dieting can lead to poor sleep. If you’re not getting the sleep you need, you could find yourself struggling with a host of problems, from irritability, poor mental and physical health, and weight gain. Sleep deprivation affects four primary hormones that are related to weight gain:

  1. Ghrelin – the ‘hunger hormone’, tells your brain when you’re hungry and when it’s time to eat
  2. Leptin – the ‘satiety hormone’, tells your brain when you’re full
  3. Cortisol – a stress hormone that activates when you wake up and conserves energy as fat reserves to use as fuel during the day
  4. Insulin – a peptide hormone that regulates your body’s ability to process food into energy1

Sleep deprivation increases your ghrelin production and reduces your leptin production. This means that your brain thinks you’re hungrier more often and is less able to recognise when you’re full. When you’re lacking sleep, your body is also unable to properly metabolise carbohydrates, so you’ll experience higher blood sugar levels. This leads to increased insulin and cortisol production. As your insulin resistance grows, your body doesn’t process fat and sugars as well as it should, so it stores most of it as fat. This results in weight gain.2

With higher blood sugar levels, you’re also at a higher risk of developing diabetes. You can read more about diabetes and sleep here.

Sleep deprivation also reduces your self-control, making it more difficult to stick to a diet. You’ll be more prone to indulge in junk food, and you may be more likely to snack later at night, eat bigger portions, and crave high-carbohydrate and fat-rich foods.

When you’re sleep deprived, you’re also more likely to struggle with feelings of fatigue, so you’re less motivated to exercise and work off the extra weight. Therefore, it’s important that you get enough uninterrupted sleep.

Sleep Apnoea

If you’re overweight, you’re at more risk of developing sleep apnoea. Sleep Apnoea is a breathing disorder in which someone’s breathing is briefly interrupted while they’re sleeping. This will wake them up momentarily, but the person usually goes back to sleep. While they may have no memory of waking up, their breathing can be interrupted hundreds of times a night. These frequent moments of waking can interrupt their sleep, leading to fatigue and sleep deprivation.

If someone is overweight, this increased weight can put more pressure on the airways and make it more difficult to breathe during the night.3 This doesn’t help your sleep quality at all, and will lead to sleep deprivation and weight gain.

Sleep Apnoea also leads to daytime sleepiness, which can make someone less inclined to change their diet or exercise, since they experience lower energy levels, poorer mood, and decreased self-control.

What Dieting Issues Affect Your Sleep?

While you’re dieting, it’s easy to forget how important sleep is to your general health. However, making sure that you sleep well each night is a good way to make sure you lose weight. Solving some of the common issues people find when they’re dieting will help you to get a good night’s sleep.

Water

People who are dieting are more likely to drink more, whether they’re on a liquid diet or they’re just drinking more water to feel full. Water helps to flush toxins out of the body and, as it reduces the feelings of hunger, is an important part to any diet and overall health. However, drinking more water during the day will increase trips to the bathroom during the night. This will interfere with the quality of your sleep. It’s a good idea to limit your liquid intake later in the day to avoid this. Drink the largest quantities of water in the morning and taper off as the day continues. Avoid drinking water within a few hours of going to bed.

Bedtime Hunger

While cutting calories is part of every diet, hunger can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night-time. Many people will eat their evening meal earlier in the day and cut out any night-time snacks when trying to lose weight. However, doing this can mean that you go to bed hungry. When the body’s hungry, it’s unable to relax4 – making sleep a challenge. You can avoid this by having a small healthy snack before bedtime. Choosing the right food won’t hinder your diet. If possible, eat granola, yoghurt, cheese, chicken, oatmeal and whole-grain cereals, bananas, or nuts. Not only are these foods healthy, but they’ll actually help you sleep.

Exercise

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably exercising. This is great – but be careful of how you exercise. If you exercise in the hours leading up to going to bed, your body may have trouble falling asleep as too much stimulation in the late evening can put off your sleep for hours. Try to exercise as early in the day as possible – the morning is best. If you can only exercise in the late evening, choose an exercise that won’t stress your body, like stretching or yoga. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

How You Eat

The diet you choose can also hinder your sleep. If you opt for diet shakes for breakfast and lunch, and then eat your largest meal of the day in the evening, you could have trouble sleeping. This is because the body may feel uncomfortable and digestion issues can arise.5 If this is the case, you may not feel well, and this can keep you awake, too. On the other hand, if you eat your largest meals in the day and opt for only liquids at night, you could keep your body awake if you’re choosing the wrong drinks. Avoid stimulants, like energy drinks, coffee, alcohol, and tea. No matter the type of diet you’re on, try to eat lightly throughout the day and closely watch your caffeine intake in the evenings.

If you’re looking to shed a few extra pounds, it’s important to remember that you need to sleep well, not just eat well. Make sure you get a good sleep by keeping a regular sleep schedule that makes sure you get the right amount of sleep each night. A well-rested body will aid your weight loss, and improve your health. Also, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor when considering a diet, as they can help you to stay healthy with a balanced diet and exercise. Checking with your doctor is especially important if you have a pre-existing health condition, like diabetes, that would be affected when going on a diet.

You can also have a look at our article, ‘Eat Well to Sleep Well‘, to find out what foods promote good sleep, and what foods will keep you awake. Or read our article, ‘Five Drinks You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed‘, to find out what drinks can keep you up at night.

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Sleep Yourself Thin?

Sleep Yourself Thin?

Sleep Expert Sammy Margo Reveals The Ultimate Slimming Secret

The New Year is undoubtedly the time to kick-start a healthy diet regime and weight loss programme. But what if your quality of sleep were to influence the results you see on the scales? In 2007, a study published in Sleep Medicine Review revealed that the number of hours we sleep greatly influences our risk of obesity and diabetes. The less we sleep, the greater the risk.

What is the connection between sleep and weight?

SlumberSlumber’s resident sleep expert Sammy Margo suggests that the connection may be due to two hormones: leptin, which suppresses appetite, and ghrelin, which increases appetite. When your body is experiencing sleep deprivation, the leptin levels are lowered, whilst the ghrelin levels rise, making you feel hungry. In addition to altering your hormone levels, sleep deprivation can also be responsible for influencing your food choices. This can make you crave foods high in sugar and carbohydrate, which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. All this suggests that sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your weight loss regime because it causes your body to work against you!

A good night’s sleep can aid weight loss!

A good night’s sleep certainly isn’t a quick fix and, of course, you have to combine it with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Yet, quality of sleep may have more to do with successful weight loss and weight management than you ever thought possible!

Apart from the hormone shifts that occur with sleep deprivation, which increase your likelihood of gaining weight, logic would seem to suggest that:

  • The more hours you are awake, the more hours you have to visit the fridge.
  • The less sleep you get, the more exhausted you are and the less inclined to cook properly and exercise regularly.
  • The more tired you are, the more likely you are to comfort-eat.

So, before you become disenchanted with your diet programme, look into your sleep habits and aim for a good night’s sleep.

Here at SlumberSlumber, we’ve already done the hard work for you by selecting products which will create a comfortable and soothing sleep environment, allowing you to achieve a good night’s sleep.

Taken from ‘The Good Sleep Guide’ by Sammy Margo, available to buy from SlumberSlumber.

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