Not sleeping well? It might be your diet


April 14, 2016

A new study shows that what you eat might disrupt your sleep.


If you’re waking up frequently at night or not feeling rested even after a full night’s sleep, what you’re putting into your body might be to blame. A diet low in fiber and high in sugar and saturated fat may be associated with less restorative sleep and more disruptive sleep, says a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.


The study

The sleep study involved 26 adults of normal weight. Researchers at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York found that when participants ate more fiber, they spent more time in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep. When they ate more saturated fat, they experienced less slow wave sleep.

Researchers analyzed sleep data after three days of controlled feeding and after one day of participants eating what they wanted. The results showed that just one day of “ad libitum” (at one’s pleasure) eating can affect sleep.

The study indicates that a diet high in fiber and low in sugar and saturated fat is the way to go for a good night’s sleep, but here are few more tips to help you sleep and get your zzz’s.


Avoid late-night nibbling

It’s not just what you eat, it’s also when you eat, says Beth Ann Malow, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Center“If possible, avoid late-night eating,” she says. “If hungry, I recommend a light snack before bedtime.” She suggests crackers or a low-sugar cereal to her patients.


Get moving

An overall healthy lifestyle will enhance your resting hours. “Exercise is a wonderful promoter of sleep and also a very healthy habit,” Malow says.


Check in with your doctor

If you’ve tried some of the above tips to help you sleep, but are still having trouble sleeping, you should talk to your doctor. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or other issues might be keeping you awake, Malow says. Chronic pain from arthritis or another medical condition could also be affecting your rest. The Vanderbilt Sleep Center has resources to help.



If you have lingering sleep issues, talk with your health care provider about finding a sleep disorder program. Vanderbilt’s Sleep Disorders Center can help.

Beth Ann Malow, M.D., is Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development, and professor of neurology and pediatrics in the Sleep Disorders Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her research focuses on the interrelationship of sleep and neurologic disease.