The Link Between Food and Sleep

a man that fell asleep on the couch eating junk food

A bowl of spicy chili late at night may give you nightmares (or at least heartburn).

But scientists are being to understand that what you eat overall—your daily and long-term diet—contributes to your sleep patterns more than was previously thought.

Food and Sleep Study

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine explored the connection between what we eat and our sleep patterns.

General Diet

  • Very Short Sleepers: < 5 hours a night

    • consumed the least amount of calories
    • tended not to have a balanced diet
  • Short Sleepers: 5-6 hours a night

    • consumed the most calories
  • Normal Sleepers: 7-8 hours a night

    • more likely to eat the most balanced diet
    • more likely to eat the greatest variety of food

Key Nutrients

Several nutrients played a central role in sleep patterns.

  • Very Short Sleep

    • lycopenes (found in red or orange foods, such as tomatoes)
    • total carbohydrates
    • less tap water
  • Short Sleep

    • lower levels of selenium (found in meat, nuts, and shellfish)
    • lower levels of vitamin C were associated with short sleep.
  • Long Sleep

    • lower levels of theobromine (found in chocolate and tea)
    • lower levels of choline (in eggs and fatty meats)
    • lower levels of dodecanoic acid (saturated fat)
    • more alcohol
    • more carbohydrates


So what's the take-home message?

“Short and long sleep are associated with lower food variety,” summarized Michael Grandner, PhD, member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

It turns out not only is variety the spice of life, it helps you sleep better too!

Click to See Our Sources


The Taste for Life Staff

The Taste for Life staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties. We believe learning is a life-long process, and love to share the knowledge we gain.