It’s bad enough that a poor night’s sleep can leave you groggy and cranky.  Did you know lack of sleep over time can lead to weight gain, too?

Without adequate sleep the body will crave food for extra energy.  Also, lack of sleep can affect two hormones that have an effect on our desire to eat. The hormone ghrelin stimulates appetite while the hormone leptin signals the brain when you are getting full. Studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived may have lower leptin levels and higher ghrelin levels, a combination that sets the stage for overeating.

A good diet and eating habits can do a lot to promote restful sleep and being at a healthy weight:

Ditch sugar in the evening

Eating a dinner that is full of refined carbohydrates such as pasta or bread or snacking on sugary candy, cookies or ice cream before bedtime can produce an energy rush when you least need it – and it can keep you tossing and turning for hours.

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Get your vitamins and minerals

Nutritional gaps caused by skipped meals and eating too few calories can affect sleep quality.  Iron deficiency has been linked to restless leg syndrome, for example, and lack of folic acid may cause sleeplessness. Foods rich in B vitamins, zinc and calcium, are known to calm and relax, and promote better sleep.

Go easy on caffeine and spicy foods

Caffeine can last in your body for hours so steer clear of things that can have a lot of it such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Also, stay away from foods that are super spicy because who can sleep with a bad case of indigestion?

Try taking melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in the center of your brain. Melatonin regulates the body's circadian rhythms - daily rhythms that include your sleep-wake cycle. The levels of melatonin in the blood are highest prior to bedtime, which should work to make us sleepy.  But at times when you are feeling restless taking some melatonin in supplement form will help you feel drowsy and may even help you get a longer, more restful sleep.

For more tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the bestselling Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.