Sleep deprivation can have several causes, making pinpointing the right one difficult. We might feel like we’ve tried everything, but a solid eight hours remains out of reach. Well, it turns out that the problem could be diet related.
With the focus of sleep hygiene often centered on routine, screen time management and nighttime comfort, we may forget the importance of eating (and avoiding) certain foods. It might seem like a minor detail, but the wrong eating habits can be costly when bedtime rolls around. Here’s how to identify the problem and fix it.
That afternoon espresso or evening nightcap might look tempting, but they could be doing way more harm than good. Research has shown that a single dose of caffeine can significantly disrupt sleep even as early as six hours before bedtime.
Alcohol isn’t much better, especially for daily users. Studies have demonstrated its effects on our ability to fall (and stay) asleep, and experts’ biggest concern includes its effects on our overall sleeping patterns. Infrequent users might find a few drinks make falling asleep easier but then suddenly find themselves fully awake again only a few hours later. People who drink regularly may become plagued by insomnia, unable to fall asleep consistently, and more apt to struggle with daytime sleepiness.
Some foods can interfere with sleep because they leave us feeling bloated or suffering from heartburn, making getting comfortable difficult. Late-night snacks that are high in fat are common culprits. Other offenders include chocolate, peppermint, onions and highly acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus. Carbonated drinks may also impair sleep.
What we eat shouldn’t be our only concern; we also need to worry about the amounts we consume and how late we have them. It’s never a good idea to go to bed on a full stomach; Medical News Today recommends not eating at all for two and three hours before bedtime. Drinking lots of fluids just before bed can also interfere with sleep by forcing multiple trips to the bathroom throughout the night. (This can also be a sign of diabetes. So if this is happening to you, please see a doctor.)
Some people are losing sleep because their diets aren’t high enough in vitamin D, which may be a more common cause of insomnia than many of us realize. We can supplement this vitamin by getting a few minutes of sunlight each day or we can add more fatty fish, mushrooms, eggs, cheese and beef liver into our diets.
We may also improve our sleep quality by eating more foods that supplement our natural melatonin production, our sleep hormone. Eggs, milk, whole grains, tart cherries, almonds and pistachios are all good sources.
And some have found insomnia help with magnesium supplementation, too.
When insomnia hits, finding the causes becomes critical. But most of the time we consider our bedroom space, bedtime, and anything other than food. Though diet may be a bigger factor than many of us realize, and it can go wrong in more than one way, robbing us of precious sleep and increasing health-related risks. A few small changes could make a big difference in precious sleep, so don't give up.
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