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Can What you Eat Affect your Sleep?

Posted Jun 23 2010 5:52am

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain.  Individuals who get around 5-6 hours or less of sleep per night are more likely to become overweight and obese.  What you eat and drink during the day and just before bedtime can make the difference between a restful or restless night’s sleep.  So, what are the foods you should avoid and which ones should you eat for a better night’s sleep?

What to Avoid:

  • Alcohol too close to bedtime:  It intereferes with your body’s ability to enter the deep sleep stage of the sleep cylce.  It can also result in frequent night awakenings by causing night sweats and nightmares.
  • Caffeine after 12:00 noon:  Because caffeine is a stimulant, it puts your body on “alert” making it difficult for it to settle down for a good night’s sleep.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, caffeine remains in your body, on average, for 3-5 hours.  In susceptible individuals, it can last in the body’s system for 12 hours.  In general, you should avoid consuming products with caffeine (e.g., soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate) 6-8 hours before going to bed.
  • “Heavy” foods and foods high in fat and protein:  These foods can take a long time to digest, and the digestive system slows down during sleep.  Therefore, consuming these foods may lead to gastrointestinal reflux (GERD) and heartburn which, in turn, interfere with your body’s ability to sleep.
  • Spicy Food and Onions:  Particularly for individuals with GERD, consuming these foods can exacerbate symptoms and cause heartburn making  it uncomfortable to fall and stay asleep.

What to Eat:

  • Foods that stimulate the release of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is a building block for the production of serotonin and melatonin – both of which play a role in inducing sleep: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you consume a bedtime snack that has a balance of protein and carbohydrates, such as milk and cereal or cheese and crackers.  This is because carbohydrates stimulate the production of tryptophan and protein is needed to make tryptophan.  Other foods that stimulate the release of tryptophan include poultry, eggs, nuts (almonds), and oats.
  • Montmorency tart cherries:  Studies have shown these cherries to be effective at inducing sleep because they contain significant amounts of melatonin.

Other Recommendations:

  • Stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime to allow your body to digest the food before you lie down to sleep.
  • Restrict drinking fluids close to bedtime to avoid having to use the restroom in middle of the night.

Sleep deprivation can result in cravings for foods high in fat and sugar.  Overconsumption of these foods can lead to weight gain.  Adequate sleep helps to regulate your appetite and, therefore, reduce your risk for obesity.

Do certain foods affect how well you sleep at night?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Sources of Information:

Happy Healthy Families Asks: Do You Have Insomnia? Friday June 18, 2010 post



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