Can’t seem to sleep through the night? Feeling exhausted when you wake? Have brain fog the next day? Sleeplessness, sleep disruptions, and other potentially chronic sleep problems that interrupt your dreamland success are pretty common, but they don’t have to be.
People often underestimate the impact of diet on quality rest, but what you are eating and drinking may be the culprits. You may want to reconsider when or how often you consume the following 9 foods, which can wreak havoc on the quality and quantity of your sleep. Plus, keep reading for tips on what you should be eating to sleep better at night!
9 Foods That Inhibit Quality Sleep
This one may come as a surprise! Grapefruit is full of vitamins and nutrients, such as Vitamin C and potassium, but it is also very acidic and eating it before bedtime can cause acid reflux and heartburn. Don’t stop eating grapefruit, but you may want to opt for eating it only in the morning, and never after dinner.
Though super crunchy and satisfying, celery and other foods with extremely high water content like cucumbers, watermelon, and radishes, are natural diuretics that may cause you to wake in the middle of the night with a full bladder, disrupting your quality night’s sleep.
Fatty foods are unfortunately a mainstay in most American diets. High fat foods and fried foods take longer to digest and are extremely inflammatory to the digestive system, which interferes with sleep. Furthermore, they can cause GI distress and heartburn. Not pleasant when you are trying to get shut eye. No wonder so many Americans suffer from chronic sleeplessness and sleep disorders!
Some people who have sensitivities to nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, report inflammation flare ups after eating them. This is due to the solanine in the nightshade foods, a major inflammation stimulant in most digestive systems. “Tomatoes are also rich in tyramine, an amino acid that triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, a stimulant that boosts brain activity and can keep you up. Other tyramine-rich foods include eggplant, soy sauce, red wine and aged cheeses, such as brie and Stilton.” (AARP.com)
This is a big one. Though alcohol is a depressant and slows down cognition, just a glass of wine or other alcoholic drink is enough to disrupt sleep later in the night. Studies have shown that alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it negatively affects your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle and SWS (slow wave sleep) - which can harm next day concentration, memory and motor skills.
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beans, Chili, and Other High-Fiber Foods
Roughage like broccoli and cauliflower contain tryptophan, which is a wonderful word to hear when deep sleep is what you are craving! Tryptophan is the most important amino acid to the sleep process. It is used to synthesize niacin (a B vitamin), serotonin (a neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a hormone that regulates your circadian cycle), all of which promote sleep. However, eating these high-fiber foods too close to bedtime can keep your body working to digest these fibrous foods long after you are in bed. High-fiber foods such as beans, and spicy foods like chili can cause heartburn, gas and belly bloat, all of which can disrupt sleep! Studies have found that eating spicy food prior to bedtime not only reduces the overall amount of sleep you get, but also raises core body temperature, which has been linked to poor sleep quality. So eat your favorite combination of these foods at least four to five hours before bed time.
Dark Chocolate, Coffee, and Teas
We all know caffeine stimulates the mind and body to be more alert, but did you know dark chocolate has 25-38% as much caffeine as one cup of coffee? In fact, all chocolates, even milk chocolate, contain caffeine. A basic rule of thumb is, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains. Speaking of caffeine, contrary to popular belief, decaffeinated coffee also contains enough caffeine which can disrupt sleep, particularly for those who are caffeine sensitive. And different teas can do the same. Make sure you read labels on all teas before you consume them.
Dessert and Sweet Sauces
Research from the European Respiratory Journal suggests that those with elevated blood sugar levels could have trouble sleeping. Foods that contain large amounts of sugar can make you feel energized and awake no matter what time it is.
Sweet sauces such as salad dressings, ketchup, barbeque sauce, steak sauce, mayonnaise, soups, pasta sauce, yogurts, and caramel drizzle can all have large amounts of hidden sugar. Be mindful when consuming these.
High Protein Foods, Such As Steak
Eating high protein foods too close to bed-time stresses your digestive system more than carbs and these foods can take hours to digest. Because high protein animal products are often high in fat, they can also be inflammatory and cause GI issues and even heartburn. Protein-rich foods release amino acids into the blood. When amino acids such as tyrosine flood the body, they are quickly used to synthesize stimulants such as the excitatory neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine, and thermogenic thyroid hormones. Excitatory neurotransmitters keep the brain active and thyroid hormones increase the body’s metabolic rate – two things you don’t want at bed-time. They can disrupt sleep and prevent relaxing tryptophan from reaching the brain, since flooding the body with multiple amino acids reduces the odds of tryptophan crossing the important blood-brain barrier.
What Can You Eat? Try These Foods Instead!!
- Foods with good sources of tryptophan, which will enhance your body’s serotonin and melatonin production. This includes things like walnuts, cherries, eggs, salmon, and turkey.
- Try a supplement with bioactive milk peptides to trigger sleepiness naturally. Bioactive milk peptides are a natural nutritional compound that is lactose-free, sleep inducing, calming, has a natural sedative effect on the brain, and brings on productive sustained sleep patterns--perfect for REM sleep. They are very popular in Europe and are now hitting the US market. They are very safe and non-habit forming!
- If you take a melatonin sleep supplement, make sure it has no more than 3 mg of melatonin: just the right amount to get your sleep cycle back on track. Melatonin is the key hormone for sleep, which is naturally produced once your eyes are shut and it is dark.
If you have been having trouble getting your zzz’s, and want a good night’s sleep consistently, then give these recommendations a try. You should see a difference quickly!