Dear Reno: Is there a connection between diet and sleep. If yes, what is it? Thank you. — B.J.

Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are two important factors for good health.

Both quality of sleep and hours of sleep can lead to changes in one’s health and well being.

Medical studies have shown that patterns of very short sleep (less than five hours) and short sleep (five to six hours) usually lead to a vicious cycle of feeling more tired and a more sedentary lifestyle, lower energy, diminished desire or inability to exercise and over-consumption of food and calorie-dense foods. All these behaviors cause overweight and obesity, which in turn leads to and are risk factors for several medical conditions.

— Sleep apnea is associated with people who are overweight. Weight loss and exercise are important adjuncts to medical treatment of this condition.

— Hormonal changes, including metabolism and appetite, are affected. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that regulate our appetite. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, and leptin tells the brain that you are full and to stop eating.

With lack of sleep, ghrelin levels go up and leptin levels go down. Have you noticed that when you do not sleep well, no matter what or how much you eat the next day, you do not feel satisfied. Over time, overeating and over consumption of calories will cause weight gain.

Experts say ghrelin and leptin levels are also affected by our environment, eating habits, exercise patterns, stress levels and genetics.

Also with less sleep hours, one has more hours to indulge in eating.

— GERD – gastro esophageal reflux — and nighttime acidity may cause insomnia and stomach discomfort, leading to disturbed sleep patterns. Diet and sleep are very important factors in this ailment. Eating well-tolerated foods goes a long way in alleviating heartburn and acidity. Avoiding caffeine and acidic foods, not eating too close to bed time and eating smaller portions of food are some of the nutrition recommendations. Night time heartburn and lack of certain nutrients such as iron may cause sleep problems such as restless leg syndrome, daytime tiredness, lack of  energy and general fatigue.

— Alcohol and nicotine are stimulants and can also interfere with sleep.

— Illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, celiac disease, aches and pains, when not under good control, may cause disturbed sleep patterns.

Exercise is good for one’s body and health, however timing is of essence.

Body temperature rises with exercise and can take up to six hours to drop.

Exercise in the morning can make you more alert, speed up your metabolism and energize you for the day.

Exercise right before bed time can lead to too much energy and the rise in body temperature makes for difficulty in falling asleep. You should exercise at least three hours before bedtime to allow the body to cool off, as cooler body temperatures are associated with onset of sleep.

Eating a healthy diet, physical activity and seven to eight hours of restful sleep per night are three important components of feeling good overall.


Reno Jain, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., is a registered and licensed dietitian at Labette Health in Parsons. She will answer reader questions on nutrition and wellness. She regrets that she is unable to answer individual questions, but will answer them in her column as possible. Readers may send questions to: askreno@labettehealth.

Recommended for you