How A Poor Diet Can Ruin Sleep

Sleep plays an important role in our overall well-being, whether it’s our metabolism or energy levels. A poor diet can impact your sleep negatively too, and here is how.

By URLife Team
06 Jul 2023

When it comes to our overall well-being, we often overlook the intricate relationship between our gut and the rest of our body. The gut, or the digestive system, is responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. However, its importance extends beyond digestion alone.


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Recent research has revealed the profound influence of the gut on hormone regulation and sleep patterns. Let us talk about the fascinating connection between the gut and digestive system, hormones, and the promotion of healthy sleep.


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The Gut: A Complex Ecosystem

The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microscopic organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, play a pivotal role in maintaining our health. The delicate balance of this gut ecosystem is crucial for overall well-being, including hormone regulation and sleep quality.


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Hormone Regulation and the Gut

The gut and its microbiota have a significant impact on hormone production, particularly those involved in sleep regulation. For example, the gut produces and releases a hormone called serotonin, which is often referred to as the "happy hormone." Serotonin not only contributes to mood regulation but also plays a crucial role in promoting restful sleep.


Approximately 90 per cent of serotonin is produced in the gut, where it helps regulate intestinal movements and promotes healthy digestion. Serotonin also influences the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Adequate levels of serotonin in the gut are necessary for the production of melatonin, which helps us fall asleep and maintain a proper sleep pattern.


Furthermore, the gut microbiota interacts with our bodies and influences the production and regulation of various hormones throughout the body. These hormones include insulin, ghrelin, leptin, and cortisol, all of which have a direct impact on sleep quality. Disruptions in the gut microbiota, such as an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria, can result in hormonal imbalances that may negatively affect sleep.


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The Gut-Brain Axis: A Bidirectional Communication

The gut-brain axis is a complex network of communication between the gut and the brain. The two systems are in constant communication, exchanging signals through the nervous system, hormones, and immune system. This intricate relationship has a profound influence on our overall health and well-being.


The gut-brain axis plays a critical role in sleep regulation. Signals from the gut, including hormones and neurotransmitters, can impact our mood, cognitive function, and sleep patterns. Conversely, poor sleep or chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt the gut microbiota and increase intestinal permeability, leading to inflammation and potentially compromising the gut-brain axis.


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Promoting Gut Health and Quality Sleep

Maintaining a healthy gut is key to ensuring proper hormone regulation and promoting optimal sleep. Here are a few tips to support gut health and improve sleep quality:

1. Balanced Diet

Consume a diverse range of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. A diet rich in fibre supports a healthy gut microbiota.


2. Probiotics and Prebiotics

Incorporate probiotic-rich foods, such as yoghurt, into your diet. These foods introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut. Additionally, include prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, and bananas, which nourish the existing gut bacteria.


3. Hydration

Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to support proper digestion and prevent constipation.


4. Manage Stress

Chronic stress can disrupt the gut microbiota and affect hormone regulation. Incorporate stress management techniques like meditation, exercise, and deep breathing to promote relaxation.


5. Regular Sleep Schedule

Establish a consistent sleep routine, aiming for 7 hours of sleep.


Related story: 5 Gut-friendly One Bowl Meals For Busy Professionals


Foods that Promote Sleep

What we eat can significantly impact the quality of our sleep. Certain foods contain sleep-promoting properties that can help us relax, improve the production of sleep-inducing hormones, and regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Incorporating the following sleep-friendly foods into your diet may contribute to a more restful night's sleep:


Kiwi is a fruit rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It also contains serotonin, which helps regulate sleep. Consuming kiwi before bed has been found to improve sleep quality and duration.


Tart Cherries

Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Drinking tart cherry juice or eating cherries can increase melatonin levels and improve sleep quality.



Almonds are a good source of magnesium, which is known to promote sleep and muscle relaxation. Magnesium can help regulate melatonin production and improve sleep quality. Enjoy a handful of almonds as a bedtime snack to see a change in your sleeping patterns. 


Warm Milk

Warm milk has long been considered a natural sleeping aid. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that can enhance the production of serotonin and melatonin. Additionally, the warmth and ritual of drinking warm milk can help relax the body and prepare for sleep.


Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice, have a low glycemic index, meaning they release energy slowly. Consuming complex carbohydrates in the evening can prevent blood sugar spikes and promote a more stable release of serotonin, helping you feel calm and ready for sleep.


Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been linked to better sleep quality, as they can increase the production of serotonin. Enjoy a serving of fatty fish a few times a week to support healthy sleep.



Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium, both of which promote muscle relaxation and quality sleep. They also contain tryptophan and can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Incorporate a banana into your evening routine or have it as a pre-bedtime snack.


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Worst Food To Eat Before Sleep

While certain foods can promote sleep, there are some foods you should avoid consuming before bedtime as they can interfere with sleep quality and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Here are some of the worst foods to avoid before sleep:


Stimulants like caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks, and even chocolate in the evening. Keep in mind that caffeine can stay in your system for several hours, so it's best to avoid it at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.


Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can cause indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux, making it uncomfortable to lie down and fall asleep. Avoid consuming spicy foods, such as hot peppers, curry, and spicy sauces, especially if you're prone to gastrointestinal issues.


Fatty and Greasy Foods

High-fat and greasy foods take longer to digest, which can lead to discomfort and indigestion during sleep. Foods like fried foods, fast food, and heavy meals should be avoided close to bedtime as they can disrupt your sleep and cause feelings of heaviness.


Heavy Protein

While protein is an essential part of a balanced diet, consuming heavy protein-rich foods before bed, such as steak or large portions of meat, can make it harder to fall asleep. These foods require more energy to digest, potentially leading to discomfort and disrupted sleep.



Although alcohol can initially make you feel drowsy, it can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause frequent awakenings throughout the night. It can also worsen snoring and sleep apnea. It's best to avoid consuming alcohol close to bedtime to ensure a good night's rest.


High-sugar Foods

Foods high in sugar, such as candies, sugary snacks, and desserts, can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash. This fluctuation can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and difficulty staying asleep.


Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated beverages, including soda and fizzy drinks, can lead to bloating and discomfort, which can make it challenging to fall asleep peacefully.


Large Fluid Intake

While it's important to stay hydrated, consuming excessive fluids before bed can lead to frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the night, disrupting your sleep. It's best to limit fluid intake, particularly an hour or two before bedtime.


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Everyone's sensitivity to different foods varies, so it's essential to pay attention to how your body responds to certain foods before sleep. If you find that certain foods negatively affect your sleep quality, it's best to avoid them or consume them in moderation earlier in the day to ensure a restful night's sleep.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


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