Do your eating habits keep you awake?

Only 25–35% of Military Service Members report getting the recommended 7–8 hours of sleep per night. With your military and family commitments, devoting the time you need for restful sleep can be tough. Small steps—such as thinking about what you eat or drink before bed—can help getting a good night’s sleep be more than just a dream.

Can't sleepHow foods and drinks can interfere with sleep

  • Feeling too full or too hungry: One extreme or the other might interfere with sleep by waking you up. A too-full stomach might cause pain, nausea, or bloating.

TipTip: Eat a small, light snack, such as cereal and milk or whole-wheat crackers with cheese, if you’re feeling hungry before bed. Avoid heavy meals, spicy, or fried foods 3 hours before bed.

  • Alcohol: Initially, you might fall asleep faster, but then alcohol keeps your body from getting into the deep sleep cycles that provide restorative sleep. Even 1–2 servings of alcohol can hurt your sleep.

1 alcohol serving =

  • 12 oz beer
  • 5 oz wine
  • 1.5-oz shot of spirits (rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila

TipTip: Limit alcohol, especially before bed, to maximize deep sleep.

  • Caffeine: That morning coffee does exactly what you want it to do: It boosts your energy and alertness. But caffeine and other stimulants can disrupt sleep when taken too close to bedtime.

TipTip: Stop drinking caffeine at least 6 hours before bed.

Can certain foods really help you sleep?

Milk before bedSome foods have naturally occurring ingredients, such as tryptophan and melatonin, believed to aid sleep. Although there’s not enough evidence to show a direct link between particular foods and melatonin and tryptophan levels that can impact sleep, some studies suggest certain foods can contribute to better sleep. There’s little harm in eating them if you enjoy them.

  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production increases when it gets dark, signaling your body it’s time to sleep. Nuts, eggs, fish, cherries, milk, and mushrooms naturally contain melatonin.
  • Tryptophan is an amino acid (a building block of protein) needed to produce serotonin, a brain chemical important for sleep and mood. Turkey, chicken, beef, cheese, yogurt, and fish naturally contain tryptophan. Carbohydrates also help boost tryptophan in the brain.
  • B vitamins are also needed for your body to produce serotonin.

For restful sleep, be mindful of how much and what time you have caffeine, alcohol, and your last meal of the day.


Learn more at our “Get into Fighting Weight” guide.

 

References

Clark, I., & Landolt, H. P. (2017). Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 31, 70–78. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2016.01.006

Doherty, R., Madigan, S., Warrington, G., & Ellis, J. (2019). Sleep and nutrition interactions: Implications for athletes. Nutrients, 11(4). doi:10.3390/nu11040822

Ebrahim, I. O., Shapiro, C. M., Williams, A. J., & Fenwick, P. B. (2013). Alcohol and sleep I: Effects on normal sleep. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(4), 539–549. doi:10.1111/acer.12006

Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine, 44(S1), 13–23. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0147-0

National Sleep Foundation. How Food and Drink Affect Your Sleep. Retrieved November 2019 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/taste/how-food-and-drink-affect-your-sleep

Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., & Korpela, R. (2012). Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. Nutrition Research, 32(5), 309–319. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2012.03.009

Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. Sleep, sleepiness and alcohol use. Retrieved October 2, 2019 from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm

Troxel W. M., Shih R. A., Pedersen E. R., et al. Sleep in the Military: Promoting Healthy Sleep Among U.S. Servicemembers. Rand Health Q. 2015;5(2):19.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; National Institute of Health; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2011). Your guide to healthy sleep. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf