Eating Better Can Dramatically Affect Your Sleep Schedule. And Vice Versa
Aug 06, 2022
(Photo by Kateryna Hnidash)
What does it mean to go on a diet? Most people think of it as reducing calories, cutting out snacks, and stopping bad eating habits. Actually, all a diet really means is the food you regularly eat. Anything can be a diet, healthy or unhealthy.
So what are the benefits of a good diet and how can you take advantage of them? What are some things you can do to get the willpower to make good decisions about food?
Sleep better to eat better
Surprisingly, the amount of sleep we get is connected to our diets in many ways. Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt like you didn't even sleep? You may feel low on energy and motivation, but you just grab a coffee or an energy drink and get on with the day? This is an all too familiar scenario for all of us.
But getting your z's can make a healthy diet more possible. Adults who get at least the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night tend to eat fewer sugars and carbs. Just by getting good sleep, you can boost your willpower to make good choices. This can be exactly what you need to stick with your diet and prioritize your health. It can make the whole process less stressful and more likely to be a success.
For help getting on a sleep schedule, use the sun as much as you can. Limit natural and artificial light about 30 minutes before bed. When you wake up, stand in a sunlit window or bright room. Or you can try out a UV-free sun lamp. Artificial light can have some of the same effects on our body as the sun.
Eat better to sleep better
Eating habits also affect your sleep in a major way. Having food within a few hours of going to bed causes the digestion process to interfere with sleep. You’re sending your body mixed messages - are we fueling up or winding down?
People who eat closer to bedtime also tend to have a higher body fat percentage. So, avoiding late night eating actually has a two-fold benefit. You're tired at the right time, and your body doesn't try to hold on to as many calories as fuel for activities.
Some people follow this by utilizing time-restricted eating, also called intermittent fasting. With time-restricted eating, you set an 8-10 hour window in which to eat during the day. Most of the fasting should be done while you are asleep.  Outside of that time window, you just have water, and some people make an exception for black coffee or tea. You should always talk to your doctor before making health and lifestyle changes. Switching over to this style of eating can take a while to get used to, but it's not for everyone.
More tips and tricks
A simple way to start improving your sleep schedule is to wake up at the same time every day. Even on days when you don't have your usual obligations. It isn't easy to guarantee that you will go to sleep at the same time every day, but you can control when you get out of bed.
If you're short on time for healthy eating, search for some 5-minute healthy meals. Try snacking on things like nuts, carrots and hummus, and hard-boiled eggs. Find things that you can prepare ahead of time, then grab and go. Like overnight oats and homemade "snack packs." Things that can help you make it through the day.
One step at a time
Make sure to start slow. While improving one habit makes it easier to improve another, don't try to tackle everything all at once. We recommend picking one habit that you want to change and focus on it. This is called your "keystone habit." This is the habit that holds all your other habits up, much like a keystone holds up an arch.
This should be the most important habit for you. It can be sleep, nutrition, exercise, whatever your driving force is. The one big thing that makes you feel more energized when you do it. Stay focused on your keystone habit until it's second nature for you. This is a great way to get started with lasting change while avoiding burnout.
Remember that getting and staying healthy is a process. Try to set achievable goals for yourself on a timeline that you can actually meet. Making lasting changes in your life will take time and effort, but if you make a plan and stick to it you can achieve a lot.