Healthy Bites

Is Your Diet Keeping You Up At Night?

A man works late, eating fast food.
Losing out on sleep can be linked with eating poorly, studies suggest. (Image credit: Working late photo via Shutterstock)

Is worrying about your weight keeping you awake at night? Well, the problem may go deeper than you realize.

Your night's rest, or lack thereof, may be linked with making poor food choices during the day, a new study suggests. Women in the study who got fewer than six hours of sleep each night consumed more calories during the day than those who slept for seven hours.

What's more, those calories were not likely to be as nutritious as the choices made by the control group of women who slept seven hours per night, according to the findings published in January in the journal Obesity.

But not only can sleep affect your food choices, another study indicates that the reverse is true — food choices may also affect sleep. [5 Things You Must Know About Sleep]

People in that study who were on special diets, and ate fewer foods, were more likely to suffer from daytime sleepiness than those not on such special diets. The researchers also found those who were on low-fat or low-cholesterol diets were more likely to report that sleeping did not leave them feeling restored.

What's the takeaway? These studies show there is a close relationship between diet quality and sleep quality. Strive for the best of both, and you should sleep soundly.

Here are a few tips that may help you get your recommended seven hours of sleep tonight:

1. Set a bed time. You may feel like a child again, but it'll be worthwhile when you wake up feeling refreshed and more likely to shun the junk food. Start by figuring out what time you have to wake up in the morning, and set your bedtime to be eight hours prior. The extra hour will help ensure that you actually start snoozing in time to get your seven hours of sleep. If you find you need more or less time, adjust accordingly.

2. Stop eating at least an hour before bedtime. When your body is digesting, it's not completely at rest. If you want to truly relax and drift off into dreamland, try to cut yourself off from food and drink about an hour before bedtime. Avoiding drinks will also stave off midnight trips to the bathroom. 

3. Give yourself time to unwind. If your bedtime is 10 p.m., plan to unplug at around 9 p.m. This means turning off the computer and/or television — anything that could be over-stimulating or upsetting to you should be shut down an hour before bed. Take this quiet time to do something for yourself, such as taking a bath or meditating to relax.

Healthy Bites appears weekly on LiveScience. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.