The disturbing link between high carb diets and your ability to sleep
(NaturalHealth365) We’ve taken many opportunities to talk about the impact of sleep (and sleep deprivation for that matter) here at NaturalHealth365. One reason is that there’s so much insightful evidence available on the health benefits of a good night’s rest. But the main reason is that proper sleep and sleep hygiene are really just that important – they’re non-negotiable when it comes to optimal health and longevity. So, if you struggle with insomnia, you may want to stay away from…a high carb diet?
You’re not the only one who’d be surprised to know that the type of foods you eat (or even when you eat them) can impact your ability to snooze. But a recent paper published in The American Clinical Journal of Nutrition suggests that people who struggle to sleep may need to lay off the carbs.
A high carb diet linked to poor sleep and depression, research reveals
The paper, just published in December 2019, was a prospective cohort study involving postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between the years of 1994 and 1998 (n = 77,860) and 1997 and 2001 (n = 53,069, as part of a 3-year follow up). Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that “[h]igher intakes of dietary added sugars, starch, and nonwhole/refined grains were each associated with higher odds of incident insomnia.”
The researchers also found that diets with a lot of carbs high on the glycemic index scale (a measure of how quickly a type of food raises blood sugar) were correlated with an increased insomnia risk.
These findings were corroborated in a comprehensive paper published in 2016 in the journal Advances in Nutrition. In this review, the authors cited research showing that a high carb diet was associated with impaired slow wave.
It should be noted that this review also mentioned other studies showing potentially beneficial aspects of a high carb diet – such as decreased sleep onset latency (the amount of time it takes to go from wakefulness to asleep) and increased REM sleep. But as the authors acknowledge, “longer-term effects have not been examined in randomized controlled studies.”
Plus, it’s not clear what the quality of the carbs were in many of these studies. Many sleep experts explicitly recommend complex and whole grain carbs as an effective sleep promoting diet choice (more on this in the next section).
In addition to a high carb diet, other dietary factors shown to be associated with poor sleep quality include:
- Low protein
- Regular consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, especially if too late in the day
- Eating a large meal within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime
Try these foods for a better night’s sleep
The December 2019 study referenced earlier suggested that a high carb diet may increase a person’s risk for insomnia. But, this same study also found that “higher intakes of dietary fiber, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables were significantly associated with lower odds of prevalent insomnia.”
So, while more research on this topic could help clarify the relationship between diet and sleep, there is evidence to suggest some sleep-promoting foods! Add these to your daily meals if you’re trying to sleep better at night: turkey, organic almonds, kiwi fruit, unprocessed whole grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies.
Sources for this article include: