Our diet can affect our sleep – this is shown by a recent US study. What promotes restful sleep, and what should you avoid?
Scientists have known for a long time that the quality of sleep can influence eating habits. In a small study, US researchers are now investigating how, conversely, the way you eat affects the quality of your sleep.
The team from Columbia University in New York observed 26 subjects (13 men and 13 women) in the sleep laboratory after they either adhered to a prescribed diet (high in fiber, low in saturated fat, low in sugar) for three days or had a day off eaten according to their preferences.
Fiber improves sleep quality
The result: Those who consumed a lot of fiber had longer deep sleep phases. A diet high in saturated fat, on the other hand, was associated with shorter periods of deep sleep. High sugar consumption also led to more disturbances in deep sleep.
There were also differences in the time it took to fall asleep: on days with a prescribed diet, the subjects needed an average of 17 minutes to fall asleep – on days with a freely chosen diet it was 29 minutes.
“The realization that diet can influence sleep is extremely important in terms of health – given the growing recognition of the role sleep plays in the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease,” says study leader Marie- Pierre St Onge.
Saturated fat and fiber – what is in it?
Dietary fibers are not only conducive to restful sleep – but they also help you lose weight, prevent numerous diseases, and protect the heart and brain. Doctors recommend eating 30 grams of fiber a day, but experts estimate that we eat 10 grams less on average. The table shows you which foods contain a particularly large amount of dietary fiber.
Saturated fats, which the study says should be avoided for a healthy night’s sleep, are mainly found in animal products such as meat, butter, egg yolk, and milk, but also in some plant-based foods such as chocolate and palm oil. If you want to increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, you should eat fish more often instead of meat and use margarine instead of butter – because these foods contain fewer saturated and more unsaturated fatty acids.
A good dinner for a good night’s sleep is therefore a slice of wholemeal bread with avocado – both are rich in fiber. For dessert, there is an apple or a pear, which also contain a lot of fiber. Important: Drink a lot of water – because the dietary fibers have to swell in the body in order to develop their optimal effect. 30 minutes before going to bed there is a glass of almond milk – because the magnesium it contains calms the nervous system. The tryptophan in milk also stimulates the body’s production of melatonin.