All topics

The impacts of food and sleep

Published on February 16, 2019 at 13:21 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 13:29

Did you sleep well last night? Recommendations issued by the National Sleep Foundation state that adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep. 35% of North Americans rate their sleep as insufficient or just fair. Thus, many underestimate or ignore sleep’s multiple impacts on their health. The quality and quantity of sleep affects, among other things, weight control, energy at work, alertness, the onset of type 2 diabetes and memory. Let’s examine the impact of a good night's sleep on our diet, and vice-versa.

Impacts of sleep on diet

A lack of sleep affects certain hormones that increase the feeling of hunger. In fact, sleep deprivation leads to a decrease in the secretion of leptin by fat cells. Since the role of leptin is to increase the feeling of fullness, its decrease is associated with an increase in food intake. In addition, another hormone, ghrelin, recognized as stimulating hunger, is more abundant during a lack of sleep. This situation therefore also generates an increase in food intake. In short, sleep deprivation promotes weight gain due to increased hunger resulting from a hormonal imbalance.

Impacts of diet on sleep

Certain foods are known for their stimulating effects and for promoting wakefulness. Just think of caffeine! It counteracts the effects of adenosine, whose role is to induce sleep. Caffeine is found not only in coffee, but also in chocolate, tea, energy drinks, some medications, and dark carbonated drinks. Consuming too much caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness, sleeplessness and headaches. According to Health Canada, a maximum of 400 mg/day of caffeine should be consumed to avoid negative health effects.

Here is the caffeine content of certain foods and beverages: 

  • Filter coffee: 179 mg/cup
  • Percolator coffee: 118 mg/cup
  • Instant coffee: 76-106 mg/cup
  • Decaffeinated instant coffee: less than 5 mg/cup
  • Espresso: 36-46 mg/ounce
  • Regular tea: 43 mg/cup
  • Green tea: 30 mg/cup
  • Instant tea: 15 mg/cup
  • Leaf or sachet tea: 50 mg/cup
  • Decaffeinated tea: 0 mg/cup
  • Dark soft drinks: 36-46 mg/can
  • Energy drink: 0-130 mg/can
  • Dark chocolate: 31 mg/45g
  • Chocolate milk: 5 mg/cup

In addition to the amount of caffeine consumed, the time at which it is ingested will influence the quality of sleep. High-caffeine foods eaten at the end of the day can affect your next night's sleep. This varies from person to person, since caffeine’s half-life (the time our body requires to eliminate half of the caffeine consumed) is 5 to 6 hours. It is therefore safer to consume caffeine as early as possible in the day and to consume decaffeinated products after 3 p.m. 

There are certain natural products that are known to induce fatigue. Chamomile, which we often find in herbal teas, is a good example. Be careful, these herbal teas are not recommended for pregnant women since they could stimulate the uterus. Valerian is another natural product that may help induce drowsiness, but for which very little scientific data is available. It hasn’t been determined if this plant is safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children, so it’s therefore not recommended for these populations. Don’t forget that before consuming natural products, it’s important to consult a health professional to ensure that there are no negative interactions with your medications. 

4 facts about sleeping

  1. Going to bed and waking up at the same times helps the body maintain a constant circadian cycle and makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up more alert. 
  2. Melatonin is another hormone produced by our body that helps regulate the circadian cycle. Supplements are available and can help you fall asleep. 
  3. Darkness and silence influence the quality of sleep. Use earplugs and cover your eyes if you can't control the sound and light in your room.
  4. Don't underestimate midday naps. These small rests, even if they last only 20 to 30 minutes, have a positive impact on memory, alertness and mood.

Ultimately, the choice of foods and the time at which they are eaten has a huge impact on sleep. The reverse is also true; the importance of sleep for weight maintenance and loss is crucial. In the event of sleep deprivation, the secretion of certain hormones that regulate hunger and satiety is altered and promotes food intake. It has even been shown that a short duration of sleep is associated with obesity and makes weight loss more difficult. With that, have a great sleep!

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier

The drugs and pharmaceutical services featured on the website are offered by pharmacists who own the affiliated pharmacies at Familiprix. The information contained on the site is for informational purposes only and does not in any way replace the advice and advice of your pharmacist or any other health professional. Always consult a health professional before taking or discontinuing medication or making any other decision. Familiprix inc. and the proprietary pharmacists affiliated with Familiprix do not engage in any way by making this information available on this website.