Getting enough sleep is essential to your health. Yet, only about one-third of US adults report that they sleep the recommended seven hours or more per night.1 Fast-paced routines keep many people busy at the expense of their sleep cycles. Sleep deprivation may be linked with chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.2
Sleep and nutrition are closely linked, as one can affect the other in positive or negative ways. Learn what helps you sleep better—and what doesn’t—so you can make smart choices for your well-being.
How Much Sleep?
Sleep needs may vary among different people and ages, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following guidelines for amounts of sleep per night:3
- 9–12 hours for school-aged children (6–12 years old)
- 8–10 hours for teens
- 7 hours or more for adults 18 and over
Sleep, Hormones, and Weight
Not getting enough sleep affects the hormones that help regulate hunger: ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite, and leptin, which decreases it. When your body is sleep-deprived, your ghrelin level increases and your leptin level falls, leading to more hunger and cravings for carbohydrates. Beyond interfering with hunger signals, less time asleep means more hours of the day to eat, which may lead to weight gain due to increased calorie consumption without more energy expenditure.4, 5
Your lifestyle choices during the day and just before bedtime may promote healthy sleep or contribute to sleeplessness. Follow the tips below to help you sleep better.
3 Sleep-Friendly Habits
Mind your diet. Research shows a relationship between diet quality and sleep. Consider incorporating foods and eating styles that are associated with better sleep.
A Mediterranean-style diet, which is generally high in fiber and low in saturated fat, may contribute to healthy sleep.6 Be sure to try our Greek-Style Fish Soup, a Mediterranean-inspired recipe featuring firm fish such as tilapia, plus fresh veggies, lemon, and olive oil. Learn more about the Mediterranean diet.
The amino acid tryptophan—found in foods such as turkey, chicken, beans, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and fish—may also promote healthy sleep. Your body converts some tryptophan into melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.7
Some research suggests that tart cherry juice, which contains melatonin, may improve sleep in some people.8 Check out our GreenWise tart cherry juice. You may want to consider melatonin supplements as sleep aids, but check with your physician first, especially if you have a health condition or are taking any medications.
Exercise regularly. Getting plenty of physical activity during the day can help you sleep better at night.9 Make time for running, walking, swimming, working out, or playing sports.
Stick to a routine. It certainly helps to go to sleep and wake up at consistent times, even on weekends. Create a calming bedtime ritual such as taking a bath or reading. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.1, 9, 10
5 No-Nos Near Bedtime
Electronic devices. Using electronic devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones in the bedroom just before bed can affect your sleep cycle. Turn them off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 9, 10
Exercise. Physical activity too late in the evening may make it harder for you to fall asleep.1
Large meals. Eating a meal close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep. If you’re hungry at night, enjoy a light snack instead.9, 10
Caffeine. Consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening may keep you awake, since it can take as long as 6–8 hours for its effects to wear off. 1, 9, 10
Substances. Avoid alcohol and nicotine near bedtime. 9, 10 Check your medications—some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as decongestants and steroids, contain ingredients that may keep you awake.1
Quality sleep is an important part of your health and well-being. If you think that you may have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, consult your physician.
For the Love of You
Choosing how you eat is uniquely personal. It’s about your needs, your preferences, and your goals. As your wellness ally, we’re in your corner with fresh ideas, recipes, and wellness icons that make it easier to shift toward wiser food choices. It’s all about you, at your very best.
1 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: National Institutes of Health (NIH). Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. August 2011.
2 Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed June 30, 2020.
3 How Much Sleep Do I Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). March 27, 2017.
4 The Connection Between Sleep and Overeating. SleepFoundation.org. Accessed June 30, 2020.
5 Kondracki, Nancy L., MS, RDN, LDN. The Link Between Sleep and Weight Gain — Research Shows Poor Sleep Quality Raises Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk. Today's Dietitian, June 2012, 48.
6 Santa Cruz, Jamie. The Link Between ZZZs & Eats. Today's Dietitian, August 2019, 32.
7 What is Tryptophan? Sleep.org. Accessed June 30, 2020.
8 Pigeon, Wilfred R., Michelle Carr, Colin Gorman, and Michael L. Perlis. Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. Journal of Medicinal Food 13, no. 3 (June 2010): 579-83.
9 Tips for Better Sleep. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). July 15, 2016.
10 American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Healthy Sleep Habits. SleepEducation.org. February 9, 2017.