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The Food-Sleep Connection

When it comes to metabolic health, sleep plays an unexpectedly powerful role. At the same time, our food choices also have a big impact on how we sleep — or don’t.

It’s obvious enough that our food choices influence our digestive and metabolic health.

What’s less obvious — but no less important — is the impact of sleep. Sleep also affects digestion and metabolism, and getting enough rest is central to weight maintenance, and any efforts to improve gut func­tion, lose weight, or prevent chronic diseases.

Even someone who eats well and exercises regularly may be prone to metabolic problems without enough sleep, says functional-medicine pioneer Mark Hyman, MD, head of strategy and innovation for Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. “One study found that just one partial night’s sleep could create insulin resistance, paving the path for [type 2] diabetes and many other problems.”

But the food–sleep connection isn’t a one-way street. Just as sleep affects our metabolic health, our food choices — including what, when, and how we eat — can affect our sleep quality.

“Many people are well aware of sleep hygiene for optimal sleep,” says functional-medicine practitioner Greg Plotnikoff, MD. “Not many are aware of dietary hygiene for sleep.”

The connection includes the obvious culprits and then some, he emphasizes. “Diet and metabolism can play very important roles in sleep beyond the well-known factors of alcohol and caffeine.”

In short, our eating habits can make or break our sleep — and our sleep patterns can make or break our eating habits.

So, what makes sleep such a potent factor in metabolism? And how do our eating habits influence sleep? Our experts offer some insight.

is an Experience Life contributing editor and functional-medicine certified health coach.

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