Home > Lifestyle & Sleep > Foods Which Impair Sleep

Foods Which Impair Sleep

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 19 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Sleep And Food Hormones And Sleep

How we live affects how well we sleep. Changing habits that have become part of a busy lifestyle is difficult. We may not even be aware that the foods we are eating are keeping us awake at night. By adjusting what and when we eat it is possible to improve sleep and feel more alert during the day, without the extra coffee!

Coffee

Caffeine is well known as a stimulant. It is also found in other foods and drinks such as tea, chocolate and soft drinks.

Caffeine raises the levels of the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. It stimulates production of adrenaline which helps keep you active and alert during the day. Too much coffee can make you feel shaky and anxious and interfere with sleep. Studies have shown that coffee drinkers can take twice as long to fall asleep and sleep less, compared to those drinking decaf.

A good night's sleep depends on the body and mind changing from daytime alertness into night time mode. As night draws in, the body undergoes a number of changes that prepare the body for sleep. Production of the hormone serotonin increases and there is a drop in adrenalin. As it gets darker the body starts to release melatonin which is very similar to serotonin. Melatonin regulates the sleep/wake cycle. Anything that interferes with the balance of these two 'night' hormones affects sleep.

Coffee and stress are well known for their stimulating and sleep preventing effects. The effect of sugar is less well known. Sugar affects the levels of the adrenal hormones causing them to rise if blood sugar levels are too low. Raised night time levels of cortisol may also affect tissue repair and speed up the aging process.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a relaxant but unfortunately is best avoided by the insomniac. The initial effect is to switch off adrenalin causing that feeling of relaxation. After a few hours the body starts to adjust and try to regulate the affects. This interferes with the different stages of sleep making you feel tired and irritable in the morning. Alcohol affects the quality of sleep and causes dehydration.

Time to Eat

Many people will be familiar with the feeling of finding it difficult to sleep after a meal. The body is busy trying to digest a large meal making it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

Feeling hungry will also affect sleep. A light snack before getting ready for bed can help sleep. A warm, milky drink encourages relaxation and can help keep hunger at bay. It is debateable whether it is the milk, the warmth, or the habit that is responsible for the relaxing feeling but it is certainly more advisable than coffee, tea or alcohol!

It is advisable to leave at least 4 hours between eating a large meal and going to bed. If it is not possible to eat earlier in the evening, try and keep a late night snack light and easy to digest and avoid foods that stimulate and interfere with sleep. A banana and a glass of milk will get you through the night. A warm drink or snack is more satisfying than anything chilled or cold.

Sleep Stoppers

It is difficult to know what is in some of the food we buy. Caffeine is contained in many drinks and a small bar of dark chocolate can contain as much as a cup of instant coffee!

Fast foods and takeaways are often high in fat and contain artificial colours and flavourings that are stimulating and hard to digest. Foods that are labelled as 'low fat' often contain additional sugar which affects sleep.

In general it is best to try and prepare meals from scratch - that way you will know exactly what they contain.

The main sleep stoppers are caffeine, alcohol and sugar. These need to be regulated during the day and restricted during the hours before bedtime. The body needs a sufficient amount of 'fuel' to get through the night, so a balance needs to be found that will help you make it through the night without hunger.

Food for Thought

Anxiety is one of the main causes of insomnia. Worrying over what you eat will not help you sleep. Weight loss and body image dominate the media affecting how we feel about ourselves and making us preoccupied with what we eat. Worrying over food will keep you awake and add to all the other stresses that affect sleep.

Finding a balance and cutting down on the 'sleep stoppers' makes sense. Worrying over every mouthful will only make it harder to sleep. Try to cut out the alcohol and restrict the coffee for a few nights each week and see how well you sleep - it might become a lifetime habit!

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Susie
    Re: Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?
    My partner keeps me awake he his continuously moving his arms and legs all night he doesn't realize…
    17 October 2018
  • Heidi
    Re: Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?
    I would start jerking the second I closed my eyes. I once counted 100 jerks in 45 minutes. They…
    8 October 2018
  • Lollipop
    Re: Understanding Lack of Sleep
    I go to sleep about 10pm, then wake at 12 and then 2am. After that I rarely can get bake to sleep. Sleeping pills don't work. I've…
    23 September 2018
  • Shorty
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Your site is the first notice I have had of the connection between insomnia and dehydration. Now in my 80s, I have had poor sleep all…
    3 April 2018
  • Imran
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Hello insominaics I have sleeplessness issue for 4 5 years. I could sleep after 2 3 hours after laying. But one month ago i have…
    30 March 2018
  • lyn
    Re: Sleeping Pills - Addiction and Withdrawal
    i am taking quater of rivotril for almost 4 months , please help me to withdrawl this pill
    30 March 2018
  • Geo
    Re: Body Clock and Sleep
    I have the same comments to make that Porge have stated ,is there a way to change the time to later in the evening ,such as 10.30 pm
    26 December 2017
  • Insomniacs
    Re: What Happens at a Sleep Lab?
    Sleepless in Stockpo - Your Question:I have an 8 month old who I cosleep with and since becoming a mum am struggling with…
    7 December 2017
  • Sleepless in Stockpo
    Re: What Happens at a Sleep Lab?
    I have an 8 month old who I cosleep with and since becoming a mum am struggling with insomnia. I feel like I've tried everything!…
    6 December 2017
  • Ruggero
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Causality here can easily trick our minds. An inverse association between thirst and insomnia is known. This does not necessarily mean…
    28 October 2017