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How Do Sleep and Diet Impact Each Other?

What you eat can impact on how you sleep, and how you sleep can impact on what you eat. We all know getting enough sleep is important for helping us to feel good and energised throughout the day.

But did you know the amount and quality of your sleep can really impact on your diet, and the opposite is also true, your diet can impact on your sleeping habits. Let’s start with the obvious point, how much sleep should you be aiming for each night?

How Do Sleep and Diet Impact Each Other? Dietitian tips for sweet dreams

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep we need changes a lot across our lifecycle, and of course varies from person to person. There are also exceptions to every rule, for example, people dealing with short term sickness like the flu or people with chronic illness often require more sleep than someone of the same sex, and age who has no illnesses. With that being said, generally, at different stages of our lives we need:

Nutrition and sleep for babies


​Newborns need at least 14 hours of sleep each day, including multiple naps across the day.

Nutrition and sleep for toddlers

Infants and Toddlers:

​At least 11-12 hours per day with naps continuing until 2-3 years of age.

Nutrition and sleep for pre-schoolers


​Approximately 10 to 13 hours.

Nutrition and sleep for primary school kids

Primary School children

​Approximately 9 to 11 hours.

Nutrition and sleep for teenagers


​8 to 10 hours of sleep each day, at this age the time they fall asleep tends to become later and as a result so does the time they wake up.

Nutrition and sleep for adults


​Most adults from 18-64 years need about 7-9 hours of sleep.

Nutrition and sleep for the elderly

​Older Adults

​Those age 65 years and up need approximately 7 to 8 hours. Waking in the night can be normal as we get older as well.

The relationship between Sleep and Nutrition

There are lots of way’s nutrition and sleep impact on each other. On the one hand the foods we eat can impact our sleep.

Diets high in processed sugars (such as those from chocolates, lollies, and biscuits) can cause us to wake more frequently throughout the night.

A diet low in fibre and high in saturated fat can lower the amount of deep restful sleep we get. So, you might still get 8 hours of sleep but not actually feel well rested in the morning.

Caffeine from beverages like coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks, can also make it more difficult to get to sleep when consumed too close to bedtime.

Diet is also related to conditions like sleep apnea, a Dietitian can work with you to create dietary strategies which can assist in improving your sleep apnea.

On the other hand, sleep can impact on the way we eat and the quality of our diet.

One big way sleep can impact our diets is by impacting on our bodies ability to produce and regulate hormones. There are many hormones that are relevant to our diets, but two main ones are ghrelin (the hormone that makes us feel hungry) and leptin (the hormone that helps us feel full).

Not getting enough sleep can increase the amount of ghrelin our body produces and decrease the amount of leptin, causing us to feel hungrier than usual and as a result eating more.

Research has also shown that a lack of sleep can increase cravings for discretionary food choices, specifically foods such as, white breads, pastries, desserts, chips, and chocolates.

So, if we aren’t sleeping enough, we tend to eat more and choose more unhealthy foods.

Medications may impact on your sleep too

There are some medications that may impact on your sleep. Medications impact everyone differently but there are some medications that are known to impact on sleep or sleep quality in some users.

These medications can include:

  • Non-drowsy cold and allergy medications

  • SSRIs

  • Beta Blockers (Blood Pressure Medications)

  • Some steroid medications

  • Dopamine agonists

  • Asthma medications

  • ADHD medications

If you think your medications may be impacting on your sleep, talk to your healthcare provider.

How to get enough sleep

In today’s busy world, that is easier said than done. Here are some ways you can try to improve your sleep.

  1. Exercise: It is recommended Australian adults aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and for most people this is enough to see an improvement in their sleep.

  2. Engage in mindfulness activities before bed: This could be yoga or some other form of gentle movement, journaling, goal planning, reading, colouring in, or deep breathing exercises.

  3. Turn off the screens: Try switching off your phone, computer and television 1 hour before bed.

  4. Avoid caffeine late in the day: Have coffee, black tea, soft drink, and energy drinks during the first half of your day and switch to chamomile tea at night at promote restful sleep.

Nutritional support to improve your overall wellbeing

An Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you develop dietary strategies to improve your sleep or to manage when you can’t get enough sleep. It is also beneficial to discuss with your doctor if you feel your sleep is impacting you in anyway, and a sleep specialist can help provide a greater insight into your specific needs.

At OSCAR Care Group we work with people to tailor their diet to improve their sleep and to manage their diet when they struggle with sleep. Reach out to one of our fabulous Accredited Practising Dietitians for support!

Sleep well!


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