A Healthy Diet May Improve Your Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 26, 2016

Jan. 26, 2016 -- A diet low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar has been linked with worse sleep quality in a new study. Could changing what you eat help you get a better night's rest?

Experts already know that not getting enough shut-eye can affect your food choices and how you eat. Getting enough Zzz's can help you lose weight, though. When you're sleep deprived, the opposite happens and you may find yourself putting on the pounds.

Researchers from the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York further studied how dietary patterns affect our rest.

The research team recruited 26 normal-weight adults ages 30 to 45 who did not have any sleep issues. They were monitored for 5 nights in a sleep lab, spending 9 hours in bed each evening from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The researchers recorded their brain waves.

During the first 4 days, participants ate a controlled diet. On day 5, they made their own food choices.


How long the participants slept didn't differ after the days of controlled eating compared with the day of self-selected food. But their quality of sleep was different. After the day of free eating, they slept worse and took longer to get to sleep, the researchers say.

Eating more fiber meant deeper and better sleep. Eating more saturated fat caused poorer Zzz's, and more energy from sugar and other carbohydrates was linked with waking up more in the night.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The trial involved a relatively small number of people for a short period of time. Longer-term studies with more people involved would be needed to confirm the findings.

The study used only people without sleep problems, so the effect on people who already have sleep disorders is unknown.

It also didn't examine things like the role of hormones in sleep and the circadian rhythm body clock.

If more research finds that our diets directly affect our shut-eye quality, that might one day lead to diet-based recommendations for people with sleep disorders, including insomnia.

Until then, if you have trouble getting rest at night, it might help to write down what you eat in a "food diary." That may help you spot patterns of eating and sleeping, and you can discuss those with your doctor.

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Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep.

Medscape Medical News.

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