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How Does Breakfast Impact Your Sleep Health?

Angela Tague

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Eating a healthy breakfast gives you the energy to make good choices, like exercising and choosing the right foods to fuel your body. Find out how these decisions help you get quality sleep at night.


Breakfast is probably on your mind within the first hour of waking — and for good reason. Your body needs to replenish its energy stores to make it through the day ahead.


Eating breakfast also affects your body's biological clock, or circadian rhythm, which helps you get ready for quality sleep later in the evening. That means preparation for a good night's rest starts shortly after the morning alarm.




Breakfast literally means "to break the fast" of not eating overnight, according to Lynell Ross, a psychology-trained Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Nutritionist.

"Throughout time, there have been those that argued that breakfast was not important, and even today, there are still people against eating in the morning. Dietitians have a different viewpoint. We believe that eating a nutritious breakfast helps us to think clearly, balances our blood sugar and sets us up for a good day," Ross says.

"When you eat a healthy breakfast, you feel energized and go through your day making healthier choices, giving you the energy to exercise and take care of yourself, so you sleep better at night."




Your daily choices affect your wellbeing, and that includes food picks.

Ross notes that if you reach for a quick doughnut or bagel filled with simple carbohydrates and a cup of coffee for breakfast, you will experience a spike in your blood sugars, followed by a crash that leaves you feeling tired, irritable and craving more high-carb snacks that don't nutritionally satisfy your body.

"By the time you get home, you overeat because you are hungry and lacking nutrients, and your choices have left you tired and not feeling up to exercising," Ross says. "You sink into the couch to binge-watch TV, and stay up too late so you don't get enough sleep."

Starting the day off with a healthy breakfast can eliminate this snacking-exhaustion-lazy cycle that affects our ability to make healthy choices like exercising, eating nutritious meals and going to bed at the same time each night to get a good night's sleep.

Ross adds, "People who eat breakfast also tend to manage their weight better, and people who are overweight or obese also have trouble sleeping well."




It's not just what you eat, it's also when and how, experts say.

John Fawkes, an NSCA-certified Personal Trainer and Nutritional Counselor, spends his days coaching clients on proper rest, nutrition and lifestyle changes (in addition to exercise) to help them reach their fitness goals.

"How and when you time your meals plays a huge role in turning on your body's internal clock," Fawkes comments.



Fawkes says the secret is to consistently eat breakfast at the same time each day to keep our biological clock ticking at the right rhythm, stabilize our energy levels and get quality sleep at night. Make breakfast part of your morning routine.

"Irregular eating or skipping breakfast on weekdays just to bombard the system with a huge brunch on the weekends is the real culprit messing with your rhythm. That irregularity is what sends your body's circadian cues into a panic, resulting in feeling groggy during the day and more restless at night," Fawkes explains.



Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up. This sets up your metabolism to do its thing and primes your digestive system for stability throughout the day.

Everyone's natural sleep cycles are different—as are their work and family routines. So, Licensed Nutritionist and Registered Dietician Stacy Kennedy says, "the same strategies won't work for everyone." Some people might thrive on a 7 a.m. breakfast, while others feel their best when their first meal is at mid-morning, closer to 10 a.m.

She suggests thinking about the big picture of your day when setting the best breakfast timing for you. Even people who feel good when they practice "intermittent fasting" or other staggered eating plans should avoid cramming the majority of their daily calories too late into the day, Kennedy cautions.

Regardless of when it begins, she says, "Having a more regular schedule for eating throughout the day can absolutely help with sleep."

If you tend to skip breakfast because you're short on time, prep it the evening before. Options like chia pudding or reheating a slice of an egg and veggie-filled breakfast casserole are ready in a moment's notice to keep your morning on track.



Fuel yourself in the mornings with protein, healthy fats and a complex carbohydrate (not a simple one, like doughnuts or muffins).

Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living, shares a few examples of satiating breakfast foods to keep on hand:

  • Eggs

  • Nuts and nut butter (like peanut, almond, cashew)

  • Low-fat dairy

  • Lean meats (like turkey bacon and chicken)

  • Greek yogurt

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains (like quinoa, fonio and oatmeal)

  • Seeds (like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)

  • Fatty fish

  • Olive oil

And what about beverages? Kennedy explains that a healthy connection between nutrition and sleep has to include consistent and sufficient hydration.


"Watch your caffeine intake and hydration throughout the day, not just close to bedtime," she says, adding that people who might find their sleep interrupted by frequent trips to the bathroom especially want to avoid overloading on water and tea too close to bedtime.


Don't let the comforting feeling of a warm mug translate to multiple cups of coffee each day, she advises. Herbal teas and caffeine-free coffee substitutes are great ways to enjoy a cozy hot beverage and take in hydration without disrupting your sleep cycle.


Kennedy suggests looking closely and honestly at how much caffeine is actually helpful to you in the mornings.


"If half a cup of coffee is enough to get you going, but you typically drink two because that's what you're used to, you might want to make a change," she says.



Choose whole, solid foods rather than smoothies or shakes. Sure, liquids are easy to sip on-the-go or at your desk when you're running late, but Fawkes says, these "can work against easing into your circadian rhythm's natural signals."


Plant-based sources of protein and fiber, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, can leave us feeling energized, satisfied and nutritionally balanced heading into the day.


Are you sensing a pattern here? Don't mess with your body's internal clock!


Furthermore, a 2021 Sleep Health study suggests that young women may be able to help improve sleep challenge symptoms by increasing their fruit and vegetable intake.



Finally, skip the sweets. These spike your blood sugars, confusing your circadian rhythm and satiety cues even more, leading you down the road of blood sugar issues, snack cravings and couch-potato status, so you're too tired to exercise and get productive sleep.


Bye-bye, bagels. Hello, fruit and yogurt parfait!


Easy and Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Rima Kleiner, a nutritionist in Greensboro, North Carolina, discourages football fans from skipping breakfast on game day. Eating in the morning helps prevents blood sugar and insulin levels from spiking and crashing later. Having breakfast can also boost energy and focus throughout the day.


“A simple breakfast that includes a quality protein, a high-fiber carbohydrate, and a little heart-healthy fat will help you feel energized and satisfied, so you're less tempted to overeat on empty calories during the game," Kleiner suggests.


Kleiner recommends protein such as seafood, eggs or yogurt in the morning. You can add fruits, vegetables, beans or whole grains for high-fiber carbohydrates. Consider sprinkling some nuts or seeds on top of yogurt or oatmeal for their heart-healthy fats.


Some of Kleiner's favorite easy, quick and nourishing breakfast ideas:


  • Two corn tortillas topped with scrambled eggs, spinach, low-fat cheddar, and salsa


  • Whole-grain toast topped with smashed avocado and smoked salmon


  • Oatmeal with skim or almond milk, berries and a handful of almonds


  • Smoothie made with fruit, chia seeds, nut butter, and skim or almond milk


  • Savory steel-cut oatmeal with shrimp, low-fat cheddar and chives


  • Whole-grain waffle with nut butter, raspberries and cinnamon



Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal wellbeing and performance. Because everyone's sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® smart beds sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep.



Angela Tague is a health-focused writer and yogi in the Midwest. When she's not trying a gluten-free recipe or hiking nature trails with her dog, she's writing full-time for lifestyle brands including Tom's of Maine, Kaytee and Health Mart Pharmacies. Chat with her on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.

This article was written in partnership with writer Holly Lebowitz Rossi and Sleep Number


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