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5 Foods That May Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

Is your diet affecting your sleep quality?
Avoid these foods for better sleep

A restful night's sleep: a universal desire, yet so elusive for many. According to researchers from Yale School of Medicine, about half of adults struggle with sleep at least a few nights a week. The most common sleep problem among adults, particularly as we age, is insomnia. Surprisingly, your eating habits may be a significant contributor to this sleep struggle.

"Spicy foods can cause heartburn, and 80 percent of people who suffer from regular heartburn and acid reflux will experience it at night,” warns Chris Brantner, a sleep coach at SleepZoo. Poor sleep can lead to unhealthy eating habits, creating a troublesome cycle. Studies even show that sleep-deprived individuals tend to consume more calories and opt for high-fat foods.

The impact goes beyond your waistline; lack of sleep can affect memory, increase the risk of falls, and impact blood pressure, according to the National Institute of Aging (NIA). Moreover, your mood and stress levels are directly influenced by the quality of your sleep.

Breaking this cycle is crucial, and one effective way is by reconsidering your dinner and late-night snacks.

1. Chili, Curry, and Pizza:

As much as fiery dishes are delightful, it's advisable to enjoy them for lunch rather than dinner. Spicy foods, like chili and curry, can cause heartburn, a common disruptor of nighttime sleep. Even pizza, especially tomato-based, might lead to nighttime heartburn due to its acidity. If heartburn is a frequent companion, try sleeping on your left side, as studies suggest it can ease symptoms.

2. The Drive-Thru:

Greasy foods, like burgers, may cause heartburn and general discomfort, affecting your sleep quality. A 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine linked consuming high amounts of saturated fat before bed to less time in deep, restorative sleep. Opt for grilled, baked, or roasted chicken and turkey, or include fiber-rich, protein-packed vegetables like chickpeas and lentils for a more sleep-friendly meal.

3. Dessert:

While a sweet treat at the end of the day is tempting, sugary foods can lead to poor sleep quality. Insulin and blood sugar spikes caused by desserts can result in elevated cortisol levels, making it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep. Consider alternatives like a glass of milk or a piece of cheese—both promote melatonin production due to their calcium content.

4. Crackers and Cereal:

Avoid bedtime snacks primarily composed of processed carbs like crackers, cereal, or white bread. Similar to desserts, these foods can spike insulin and blood sugar levels, hindering your sleep. If you need a late-night snack, go for a glass of milk or a piece of cheese, as the calcium in dairy promotes melatonin production. Alternatively, a handful of nuts with shaved coconut or some olives are low-sugar options containing healthy fats.

5. A Nightcap:

While a glass of wine may initially relax you, it can disrupt your sleep a few hours later. Alcohol promotes sleep, but it's not the natural, restorative kind. After about four hours, your body metabolizes the alcohol, leading to a disruptive "rebound effect." This can cause difficulty falling back asleep, interrupting REM sleep, crucial for brain functions. If you choose to drink, do so earlier in the evening and stay hydrated to help your body metabolize the alcohol before bedtime.

A good night's sleep starts with mindful eating. By making simple adjustments to your dinner and late-night snacks, you can pave the way for better sleep and overall well-being. Prioritize your sleep, and you'll reap the benefits in every aspect of your life.

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