Diet has a big impact on your overall health. The saying “you are what you eat” rings true about a lot of things. While most people recognize how diet can impact your weight, your risk of certain illnesses, and your energy levels, you might not be aware of how much it can impact your sleep.

As we age, sleep naturally becomes more difficult – but just as important.

Understanding how your diet can impact your sleep could make a big difference in the rest you’re getting. If you’ve found that you’re struggling to get enough quality sleep each night, it’s time to take a look at what you’re eating every day. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how rest and nutrition can contribute to better overall health as you age.

How Your Diet Impacts Your Sleep

So, what’s the real diet-sleep connection?

Eating a diet rich in nutrients provides the brain with an ideal chemical environment. When your brain isn’t lacking the necessary nutrients, it can produce the right amount of neurotransmitters that tell your mind and body it’s time to sleep. One study found that eating less fiber and more saturated fat and sugar contributes to lighter, less restorative sleep.

When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Your midnight snack could end up doing more harm than good if you’re trying to get enough rest.

Eating late in the evening can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythms. If you get out of bed for a late-night bite, for example, your body needs to produce energy to break down that food and digest it. As a result, it will think it’s time to be awake. So, if you try to go back to bed after having a cold slice of pizza, you’ll have a harder time getting the rest you need.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to when you should and shouldn’t eat, including

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed
  • Eat a large breakfast and smaller meals throughout the day
  • Avoid spicy foods close to bedtime
  • Avoid fatty foods before you sleep

By timing your food choices the right way, they’re less likely to keep you up with conditions like acid reflux. Combined with healthier choices in what you eat, making those changes will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Adjusting What You Eat

There’s no denying that you probably can’t eat all of the things you used to enjoy. Having a double cheeseburger isn’t going to sit as well with someone in their fifties as it would with someone in their twenties.

But, adjusting what you eat has more to do with avoiding heartburn. Making different food choices as you age will also benefit your sleep.

While there are no hard and fast rules as to exactly what you should eat, your diet should consist mainly of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. As you get older, certain nutrients become more important for your overall health, including:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Fiber
  • Omega 3s

Focusing on getting the right nutrients will make it easier for your brain to send the right signals to your body when you’re ready to sleep.

Changing your diet is only one simple way to improve your sleep. Things like exercising or utilizing different relaxation techniques can also improve the rest you get each night. Even changing your environment can make a difference. But, if you know you’re not eating to benefit your health and you’re also not sleeping well, don’t ignore that connection. The sooner you make changes to your diet, the better your nights will be – and you’ll experience all of the positive health benefits that come from getting enough sleep.