A new research review has found that our diet could have a big impact on how well we sleep at night. It revealed that a restful slumber might come down to eating the right types of carbohydrates and fats.

what did the research show?

People who ate more quality carbohydrates and good fats slept well. “Quality” carbs mean fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains, or minimally processed, lower-sugar foods made from those ingredients. These are also known as complex carbohydrates and are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Higher fiber foods and anti-inflammatory foods were linked to better slumber as well. These, again, include plenty of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The researchers found people who had higher fiber diets had a longer and deeper night’s sleep.

On the flip side, people who consumed a lot of highly processed carbohydrates or sugary foods and drinks were more likely to have poorer quality sleep overall.

When it came to protein, it was all about getting the amounts right. Science supported the fact that diets higher in protein (without being “high protein”) were associated with a better night’s sleep. These diets included about the same amount of protein as our guidelines recommend—46 grams a day for women, a little more for men.

why does diet affect the quality of sleep?

While more research is needed, the authors of this review commented that plant-based diets helped the body produce more serotonin and melatonin—two hormones essential for sleep.

They also pointed to the gut-brain axis, which is the link between the gut and the brain. Plenty of fiber and good fats are important for a healthy gut microbiome because they help to nurture a wide variety of gut bacteria. Emerging research has linked a healthy gut microbiome with longer, less disrupted sleep.

Aiming for a diet with plenty of plant foods and good fats, as well as less saturated fat and sugar, is a good starting point to help you feel better and sleep well too. A Mediterranean diet is an ideal place to begin.

some simple shopping swaps

  • Switch white bread for delicious grainy loaves.
  • Grab a can of beans, such as a four-bean mix or kidney beans. They’re always a handy pantry staple to help bump up the fiber and protein of a meal.
  • Make sure you have breakfast. Shop for whole-grain or high-fiber cereals to start the day right with quality carbs.
  • Stick to canola oil or olive oil for cooking, and avoid butter or coconut oil.  

Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health Food Company. For more information and research references, check out sanitarium.com.au.

Health Matters: The Best Diet for a Better Night’s Sleep

by Sanitarium Health Food Company
  
From the November 2022 Signs