Researchers linked low-fiber, high-sugar, and high-fat diet to disrupted and less restful sleep. What food will then help insomniacs sleep better at night?

Authors of the study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine have found that high energy levels from more saturated fat intake led to less slow wave, deeper sleep. High sugar consumption also resulted in more days of waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

The team said that if diet could dramatically influence sleep in their five-day research, it may also do the same – or even worse – in the long term.

“The finding that diet can influence sleep has tremendous health implications, given the increasing recognition of the role of sleep in the development of chronic disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” explained study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge of Columbia University Medical Center.

According to the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, food relating directly to hormone serotonin is a key in promoting healthy sleep. Food that offers nutrients such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid are also instrumental in achieving restorative sleep.

Author and registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick recommends these five food groups for an easier path to deep, restful slumber:

Complex Carbohydrates

Avoids simple carbs such as breads, sweets and pasta, and instead embrace whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers and brown rice. The former tend to make serotonin levels drop.

Lean Proteins

Consume low-fat cheese, meat, dairy products and fish, which are all high in amino acid and serotonin-boosting tryptophan. On the other hand, avoid high-fat cheeses or deep-fried chicken or fish – they take longer to get digested and will keep you unnecessarily awake.

Heart-Healthy Fats

Unsaturated fats do a good job of improving serotonin and also boosting heart health. Some choices include organic peanut butter, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews. Try not to eat saturated fats as well as trans fats, which include French fries, chips and other processed snacks.


Warm milk, chamomile tea or peppermint tea can soothe the body before sleep. As for caffeinated drinks, those who find it difficult to sleep should take their last cup by 2 in the afternoon. Remember: even the smallest amount of stimulant can keep one awake, and your mind running.

Fresh Herbs

Sage and basil harbor chemicals with tension-reducing properties. One can create a homemade pasta sauce using them, but skip out on herbs such as black or red pepper as these can bring about stimulatory effects.

Photo: Andrew Roberts | Flickr

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