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How Sleep Impacts Mood & Makes You a Better Decision-Maker (Including Food Choices!)

It’s no secret that both nutrition and sleep play a fundamental role in our health, but the complex and important relationships between them are frequently overlooked.

Diet and nutrition can influence the quality of your sleep, and certain foods and drinks can make it easier or harder to get the sleep that you need. At the same time, getting enough sleep is associated with maintaining a healthier body weight and can be beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight.

Recognizing the connections between sleep and nutrition creates opportunities to optimize both in order to eat smarter, sleep better, and live a healthier life.

What Is Nutrition?
Nutrition is made up of the food and other substances that allow the body to have energy and function properly. Human nutrition is composed of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Macronutrients
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include carbohydrates, protein and amino acids, fats, fiber, and water.
Vitamins
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play specific roles in a multitude of bodily processes, and there are 13 essential vitamins.
Numerous minerals
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are needed to power different systems of the body. Minerals are classified as either macrominerals or trace minerals depending on how much of them we need.
Proper nutrition requires obtaining a healthy balance of macronutrients and the necessary intake of vitamins and minerals. Most nutrition comes from food, but other sources, like drinks and dietary supplements, are contributors as well.

How Nutrition Affects Sleep
“You are what you eat” may be a cliche, but it reflects the fact that nutrition serves as a backbone for health, providing the energy we need and other inputs that make the body function properly. The links between nutrition and obesity, diabetes, and heart health
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are well-known, but many people are unaware that their diet can also affect sleep.

What Is the Best Diet for Sleep?
As a general rule, a balanced diet made up largely of a variety of vegetables and fruits is able to provide broad range of vitamins and minerals, contributing to better sleep while promoting a healthy weight.

Because sleep and nutrition are extremely complex and involve multiple interconnected systems of the body, it is challenging to conduct research studies that conclusively demonstrate a single diet that is best for sleep. Instead, what appears most important is that a person gets adequate nutrition without overconsuming unhealthy foods.

Growing evidence indicates that sufficient nutrient consumption is important for sleep. One large study found a lack of key nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K to be associated with sleep problems
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. While this research does not prove cause-and-effect,Many different types of diets can offer this kind of nutritional balance, and some have been evaluated more closely for how they affect sleep. For example, the Mediterranean Diet
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, which is plant-based while incorporating lean meats and high-fiber foods, has been found to improve heart health and sleep quality
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.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, or DASH diet
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, involves reduced salt and saturated fats along with a focus on whole foods with high levels of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. The DASH diet was designed to reduce blood pressure, but research has found that people who closely follow it tend to report better sleep
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.

Because of the effects of dietary changes on numerous systems of the body, it’s important for anyone who is considering starting a new diet to talk with a doctor or nutritionist who can review their nutrition plan and its benefits and downsides in their specific situation. Further research will be necessary to identify the sleep benefits of different diets and to test the comparative effects of those diets on sleep.

Does an Unhealthy Diet Affect Sleep Disorders?
Some sleeping problems are directly due to sleep disorders. One of the most serious sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes impaired breathing and numerous nighttime awakenings. Obesity is a key risk factor for OSA, which means that an unhealthy diet that contributes to excess body weight may cause or worsen this sleep disorder.

Alcohol is known to worsen obstructive sleep apnea as it further impairs airway muscle tone throughout the night. This leads to increased blockage of the upper airway during sleep.

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