Healthy Eating Tips

Science Just Linked These 3 Eating Habits to the Highest-Quality Sleep

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma
The person who says "sleep is for the weak" has clearly never woken up after eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted shut-eye. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Control and Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), prioritizing rest is one of the best ways to support your immune system, reduce stress, boost your mood, and avoid brain fog. So—ahem—clearly, sleep is for the strong. And if you're looking for ways to naturally support your circadian rhythm, a new scientific review indicates that what you eat is a pretty darn good place to start.

A new literature review conducted by the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined previous human studies published between 1975 and 2021 to learn about the relationship between diet and sleep quality. "This study is a review study, which means that it took a look at the body of research—in this case, 20 studies—out there on what people are eating and how that affects sleep quality," explains Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist in Stamford, Connecticut. "The study authors found that when people followed diets high in complex carbs, unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, fruits, veggies, and anti-inflammatory nutrients—and low in saturated fats—they reported better quality sleep."

Specifically, researchers linked three particular eating habits to sounder sleep:

  1. Diets higher in complex carbohydrates (specifically, carbohydrates that contained fiber) and healthier fats
  2. Diets higher in protein
  3. Diets rich in fruits, veggies, and anti-inflammatory nutrients and low in saturated fat (a type of dietary fat that may lead to high cholesterol)

Taken together, this research indicates that you can hack your plate for droopy eyelids. Just combine a fiber-rich carb (like quinoa or whole wheat pasta) with a healthy fat (like avocado), then add your choice of protein (like tofu or salmon), fruits, and veggies. Gorin recommends a power bowl if you're not sure where to start. "One of my favorite meals to make is a vegan power bowl, which includes quinoa (complex carb), kidney beans (protein), and onion, yellow squash, arugula, and tomatoes (veggies)," she says. And bam: You've got a healthy, sleep-supporting meal.

Before you chow down on your pre-sleep feast, a word on the methodology of this study. Researchers measured "quality sleep" through metrics like deep sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep), REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep), sleep efficiency, sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep), and waking after sleep onset. However, it's important to note the limits of this research. "The studies included in this research were observational and interventional-meaning that we can pinpoint a correlation between diet quality and sleep quality but not a causation," explains Gorin. Meaning (sigh), there's no definitive proof that eating a diet rich complex carbs, protein, and fruits and veggies will guarantee you a stellar night of sleep.

Still, there's no harm in supporting the ongoing pursuit of sleep through—you know—eating mouthwatering meals. So if you feel so compelled, give eating for sleep a shot. At the very least, you'll have a delicious meal to look forward to.

These vegan lentil tacos support your sleep schedule and taste amazing:

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