Food and sleep: eat for more restorative sleep and productive wake time

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Are you grogged out, ready to pummel your alarm when it goes off in the morning? Feeling clueless about why you even had to get up early? Or maybe you’re immune to the loud, repeating beep of it all together? I can relate! Food and sleep work together (or not) to heal your body. So make sure you’re syncing them up, or no amount of sleep will leave you feeling good enough.

How are food and sleep related?

It’s no news flash that some foods, especially those with sugar and caffeine, can thwart your quality of sleep. But on the flipside, your digestion may suffer if you’re lacking enough quality sleep.

For years, we’ve heard how REM sleep is the best sleep – that when we’re dreaming we are sleeping at our best. But now we can read about non-REM sleep, which is the truly the deeper, more restoring kind of sleep. This precious non-REM sleep seems more “available” during the earlier hours of the night, versus the wee 3am-ish hours, according to this article.

And if you’re not getting enough of the hardcore restorative sleep daily, the resulting sleep deprivation can stack up like a pile of unpaid bills, making it hard to catch up. These ‘bills’ may surface as digestive issues, mental health matters, exaggerated allergy symptoms and much worse.

I mean, if the iPhone comes with a bedtime app now, it must be a serious matter, right? So aim to get to bed between 8pm and midnight, allowing yourself 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.

I could write a book about how to get better sleep. And maybe I will. Sleep is sooo important. But for now, let’s look at ways to make food and sleep play together nicely.

Keep certain foods and sleep separate

We’ve all heard to avoid caffeine close to bedtime. But did you know caffeine can “do its thing” for up to 8 hours? That means if you go to bed at 10pm, you shouldn’t have caffeine (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) after 2pm – it should be finished, in the trash and not still in progress.

That means grabbing something decaffeinated for that 3 to 4pm crash. Stay tuned here.

Caffeine does not affect everyone the same, of course. But just because caffeine does not keep you from falling asleep, does not mean it’s not interrupting your sleep, unbeknownst to you. Nicotine, another stimulant, can sabotage your sleep in the same way.

Sugar can give you the rush and crash, along with disruptions – a train wreck in the works.

Though a depressant, effects from alcohol can wear off, also interrupting your much-needed restorative sleep.

Whatever you’re eating, avoid stuffing yourself at dinnertime. In fact, avoid heavy meals within 2-3 hours of your bedtime.

Maca powder, cardamom, cashews, apples, bananas and sweet potatoes help boost energy – so these are not ideal before bedtime, but great for that afternoon boost. Also, if eggs give you indigestion, they will hinder your sleep. Otherwise, the protein from eggs is thought to help sleep.

Drink half your body weight in ounces of water during the day and then only sip as needed after dinner. Practicing your trusty Kegel exercises might also save nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Finally, whether your medicines are food-based or not, consider the side effects carefully. You may want to take ones that jolt you in the AM and ones that make you sleepy before bedtime. If you wake up stuffy, try taking your allergy remedy before bedtime so it can work its best while you sleep.

get better sleepOther foods pair nicely with sleep

cherries food and sleep











Plenty of foods will help prepare your body for sleep. Choose foods that you know without any doubt help your body heal. (Dairy and grains often secretly wreak havoc, but I’m including them as options.)

  • tart cherries
  • dark leafy greens
  • walnuts
  • herbal decaf tea (chamomile, passionflower, valerian)
  • miso
  • turkey or white Albacore tuna
  • low-sugar (no additives) yogurt
  • oatmeal

Also, eating healthier in general will allow you to sleep better. For more on this, check out my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

A few other suggestions for better sleep

Exercise is key to better health, but timing is everything. If you do a vigorous workout within 5 to 6 hours of bedtime, your body may cool down and wake you during that non-REM restorative sleep.

On the other hand, if you workout outdoors in the morning, make sure that 6 to 10am time period is not prime pollen time for your location. Sucking all the allergens in as your workout may leave you feeling unrested, regardless of how great of sleep you got.

Also to protect against allergens, keep your bedroom windows closed at night, shower pollens off before going to bed and stop pressing your snooze during the morning hours when again, pollens may be at their peak.

Finally, know how much sleep your body needs and stick to a regular sleep schedule. If you need, use a sleep diary, much like a food journal, to track what food and sleep habits help you get that deep, healing sleep, leaving you feeling most rested.

Healing food and sleep are essential for optimal health. Be highly intentional with both!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 


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