While giving ourselves adequate time to get to bed at a reasonable hour is important, the foods we eat can also really affect our ability to both fall asleep. By avoiding foods that can keep us up at night and eating foods that promote deeper sleep, we'll be better able to gain restorative sleep and feel more alert, energized and less stressed the next morning.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on relaxing before bed in order to reap the benefits of a good night's rest. We discuss the importance of sleep and how it can affect our productivity, appetites, weight management, stress levels and hormones. Because it's so encompassing, it's best to set a reminder to go to bed at a certain hour, to avoid stimulating activities and do relaxation techniques instead, and to eat foods that promote sleep as opposed to those that can keep our minds alert. It's common to wake up a few times throughout the night to switch sides or use the bathroom, but if you notice that you are waking up too often and have trouble falling back asleep, the lack in hours can mess with our health and wellbeing pretty bad over time, according to experts at WebMD. Here are eleven foods that can mess with our sleep and here's why we should avoid them.
1. Aged & Fermented Foods
"Sour Cream, aged cheeses, yogurt. Fermented foods contain an ingredient called Tyramine. Tyramine is an amino acid that’s known to stimulate brain activity, which could prevent you from falling asleep at night for quite a long time," says Nutrition Coach Darin Hulslander, over email with me. "For the cheese lovers, a mozzarella based snack would be much better before bed time," he adds.
Because fresh tomatoes, as well as tomato sauce or soup, tend to be acidic, it can irritate the stomach lining and create an acidic pH level in the body, which can lead to indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux, advises Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, a spokesperson for America's Better Sandwich, over email with me. "Tomatoes or tomato based products can also be a trigger for many," she says.
While watermelon is absolutely delicious and refreshing, it's best as an afternoon snack or a post-workout recovery for its hydrating affect, according to Gregory Tardie, PhD in interview with Livestrong. However, watermelon is very high in water content, and having too many liquids before bed can make us wake throughout the night for more bathroom runs than we might like, says Dr. Lisa Ashe, Medical Director, Be Well Medical Group, over email with me.
While pizza isn't that healthy as a late-night snack as is, due to its high fat, oil and sodium content, and greasy, cooking methods, it's especially bad for getting a solid night's rest, as it is incredibly high in refined carbohydrates. "Do not eat large amounts of simple carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, rice and fruit," says Ashe. Foods that are high in refined carbohydrates ad sugars, as well as the tomato sauce, can interfere with the ability to get restorative sleep, she says.
5. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is loaded with healthy flavanols and antioxidants to promote anti-aging, heart health and positivity, and so it makes for a great afternoon treat to regain some natural energy and brighten the mood; however, chocolate does contain caffeine, which can stimulate us, so it's best to be eaten a few hours before bed, rather than as a dessert close to bedtime, explains Ashe. "The most important foods to stay away from at night are those which contain caffeine, such as coffee, certain teas and sodas, and even some ice cream," she says.
6. Tabasco Sauce
Tabasco sauce, in addition to other hot sauces and peppers, can create acidity in our stomaches and lead to abdominal discomfort, sweating, and heart burn, due to the spice, according to Brandon Berman, Reverie in-house sleep expert, over email with me."Stay away from spicy foods at night. They can cause indigestion and keep you awake," he says. Instead, add flavor with less spicy sauces and herbs.
7. Dried Fruit
Due to its high sugar content and lack of water, it's possible to over eat dried fruit and consume too much sugar, which can interfere with our ability to fall asleep and can result in stomach discomfort and increased blood sugar levels, says Ashe.
Plus,"eating large amount of carbohydrates or sugar can trigger migraine by mimicking the side effects of dehydration," she adds. Of course, migraines can keep us awake for several hours, as well!
While not necessarily a food, alcohol can definitely keep you awake at night and mess with your circadian rhythm patterns, advises Hulslander. "Even though alcohol may be relaxing and help you fall asleep, studies show it not only causes frequent waking at night, but it also reduces REM sleep, so often we won’t feel like we slept at all," he explains.
9. Frozen, Packaged Foods
While some frozen dinner brands are trustworthy and reliable, especially a few meal-delivery services with reputable reviews and ingredients, many frozen foods and packaged meals in the standard grocery store are high in fats, sugars, sodium and other additives, that can keep us awake and lead to indigestion and stimulation, suggests Ashe. You want to avoid large, fatty and greasy meals just before bed time," she says.
High in water content and acidity, this treat makes for a great snack, but should be eaten first thing in the morning of afternoon, rather than at night, according to Frank W. Jackson, M.D., of Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology clinic in interview with Livestrong. Eating grapefruit at night can make our bodies too acidic to fall asleep and can trigger acid reflux, he says.
While a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt or a popsicle might be a light dessert before bed, it can be detrimental to our ability to feel sleepy, due to the surge in sugar, advises Berman. "Sugary foods also give you an extra dose of unwanted energy. There is a strong link between healthy digestion and sleep, so choosing foods packed with vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium, will help support your body function more efficiently, promoting optimal sleep and health," he says.
Getting to bed early enough to secure adequate shut-eye and eating foods that are high in sleep promoting ingredients is the best way to sleep soundly and gain between seven and night hours nightly. Avoiding foods that can keep us awake will help us fall asleep faster to reap these benefits. Try relaxation techniques, yoga, or a good read for other ways to power down in addition to food.
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