A study from Columbia Medical School shows that a high fiber diet that is low in sugar and saturated fat can help you to fall sleep faster and sleep deeper at night (J Clin Sleep Med, Jan 2016;12(1):19–24). A single day of increased sugar and fat and decreased fiber intake can interfere with your sleep that night.
In a randomized-crossover inpatient study, 26 normal-weight men and women, 30–45 years old, who habitually slept 7-9 hours a night, were tested twice for five days each: first on their habitual eight hours in bed, and second for only four hours in bed. The data was analyzed only for their habitual eight hours in bed.
For the first four days, they ate a controlled healthful diet that was high in fiber and low in sugar and saturated fats. On day five, they were allowed to eat as much of anything that they wanted. Then their sleep on day three on the controlled healthful diet was compared to their sleep on day five on their unrestricted diet. The authors then compared the amount of sugar, saturated fat, and fiber the people ate on their chosen diets with how they slept that night and found that low fiber, high saturated fat, and high sugar each were associated with less deep slow-wave sleep and more arousals during the night. Other studies show that you feel more refreshed in the morning after more deep slow-wave sleep with fewer arousals.
The study also showed that participants fell asleep faster after eating fixed healthful, low-saturated fat meals provided by a nutritionist. Participants took an average of 29 minutes to fall asleep after eating foods and beverages of their choice, and only 17 minutes to fall asleep after eating the controlled healthful diet.
Tips to Help You Fall Asleep Faster and Wake Less During the Night
• eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, restrict sugar-added foods and drinks and restrict sources of saturated fats
• Get plenty of exercise during the day so you are physically tired
• try to sleep in the same bed each night
• try to go to sleep at the same time each night
• turn off all noisemakers such as radio, TV, noisy clocks and so forth
• avoid alcohol and smoking
• do not take caffeinated drinks after 12 noon
• use a comfortable mattress and pillow
• sleep in a darkened room
Fortunately, the diet that appears to help you sleep better is also a dietary pattern that helps to prevent heart attacks, diabetes and some cancers.