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Getting enough sleep is vital for your physical and mental health. Proper sleep hygiene and daily exercise may help you fall – and stay – asleep through the night. But if you do not sleep well despite regular exercise and a healthy sleep regimen, you may want to examine your diet. Studies are now suggesting that poor sleep may be influenced by our diet and gut health.

In a recent study, researchers determined that when they restricted sleep in test subjects, the subjects ate more frequently during the day and sought out saturated fats and snacks to keep up their energy levels.[1] Moreover, studies have also shown that restricted and/or poor sleep can affect the gut microbiome, which influences the degree and quality of our digestive and emotional health. “Although data are mixed, there is some evidence that sleep restriction can influence the composition of the gut microbiome in humans.”[2] In other words, poor nutrition leads to poor sleep, which leads to unhealthy food choices and so on. This vicious cycle can lead to weight gain and the risk of a host of ailments, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Researchers noted that subjects had better quality sleep when their diets included more fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains – a high-fiber Mediterranean diet -which all contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. These subjects were also less likely to make unhealthy food choices to maintain their energy during the day.

In order to achieve a healthy gut – and improve your sleep – these researchers found it helps to maintain this Mediterranean-style or plant-rich diet. These foods not only support your gut health, but also contain important micronutrients, including magnesium, which aid in the production of melatonin and other sleep-inducing compounds.[3] On the flip side, when you don’t get enough sleep, the body is often lacking in these nutrients.

Including high-fiber foods that act as fuel for good bacteria seems to be a key factor in keeping a healthy gut microbiome, which may lead to better sleep. And better sleep supports better health, good stress management and improved weight management.

So, it is clear that healthy sleep and a healthy diet are closely related—and one seems to lead to the other! Sleep well to eat well, and, as studies now show, eat well to sleep well!

[1] St.-Onge, M. Zuraikat, F. (2019, February 12). Reciprocal Roles of Sleep and Diet in Cardiovascular Health: a Review of Recent Evidence and a Potential Mechanism. Current Atherosclerosis Reports (2019) 21: 11. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-019-0772-z.

[2] Id.

[3] ASN Staff. (2019, June 19). Study links poor sleep with poor nutrition. American Society for Nutrition. Retrieved from https://nutrition.org/study-links-poor-sleep-with-poor-nutrition/.