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Nutrition, Meals and Sleep
Can your eating habits really affect your sleeping habits? Find out here.

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Nutrition, Meals and Sleep

About a third of Americans report not getting enough sleep at times. Ten percent or more have chronic insomnia. There are many important sleep hygiene tips, and some involve nutrition and meals. Here are some of them:

Be consistent. Space out meals and snacks to prevent excessive hunger and keep energy high.

  • Eat breakfast. Try eggs, peanut butter or avocado on whole-wheat toast, oatmeal topped with nuts and low-fat milk or cottage cheese and fruit.
  • For lunch, a salad with grilled chicken or shrimp, a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread or a bean soup would all be good choices.
  • Include an afternoon snack if dinner is more than four hours away. Protein-carbohydrate combos may include fruit and a handful of nuts, a rice cake with peanut butter or whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese.

Avoid heavy meals late at night. Eating a large meal soon before bed can interfere with a restful sleep.

  • You want your body to be resting while sleeping, not busy digesting your last meal.
  • In addition, lying down with a full stomach encourages acids and gastric juices to flow up into the esophagus. That may cause heartburn in some people.

Nix the caffeine if you are sensitive to it. Any food or beverage with caffeine may disturb sleep, but this is not true for everyone.

  • If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid it in the afternoon and evening. Remember that caffeine can be found in chocolate, tea and some sodas and medications. There is even a small amount of caffeine left in decaffeinated coffee.

Avoid alcohol in the evening if you choose to drink at all. Though small amounts of alcohol may help you fall asleep (and may be relaxing), it actually interferes with staying asleep.

Don't drink fluids too close to bedtime. If the need to urinate wakes you up in the middle of the night, limit liquids of any kind prior to bedtime.

Emily A. King contributed to this report.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/26/2010
Updated on 01/08/2013
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition basics.
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Your guide to healthy sleep.
  • Harvard School of Public Health. Healthy eating plate.
  • How to sleep better: Tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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