Insomnia – A Growing Problem
And many are surprised, after years of luxurious sleep, to suddenly find themselves staring at the ceiling, counting sheep. Insomnia is something that we are more at risk for every year that we live. If you find yourself unable to get good shut-eye, your doctor will most probably talk to you about stress. But something else that should also be looked at is diet. There are certain foods that, especially when eaten right before bedtime, can be very disruptive to sleep.
Foods To Avoid
You probably have a drink or two when you want to relax. And since stress is a main culprit of insomnia, it makes sense that a couple of drinks would be a natural solution for getting some extra sleep. However, there’s a catch.
Alcohol has a two-part effect on the body:
- At first, it will relax you, which can help you feel ready for sleep.
- However, as the alcohol is digested, it eventually becomes very stimulating to the brain.
So you may fall asleep easily after a couple of drinks, but you’ll awake after only a couple of hours having had less than adequate rest.
This includes things like tomato sauces or tomato based soups.
- Tomatoes can be hard on the digestive system and can be especially problematic when consumed in the few hours leading up to bedtime.
- Tomatoes are known to cause acid reflux. This happens when stomach acid goes the wrong direction back up into the esophagus to create a burning sensation. This risk of acid reflux is exacerbated when lying flat like when trying to sleep.
So eating tomatoes near bedtime can create insomnia-inducing discomfort.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is most known for being a common additive found in Chinese food restaurants. However, MSG is also added to a bevy of the processed foods found on store shelves. And the problem with MSG is that it can be very stimulating to the brain with this effect becoming more exacerbated with each birthday that you celebrate. The blood-brain barrier becomes more porous with age, allowing for an increased response to MSG. So while you may have downed carton after carton of takeout in your 20′s with no effect, you may find yourself tossing and turning from the same diet in your 50′s. So MSG is a danger food for insomnia.
The sweet stuff contributes to insomnia is two ways.
- First, sugar can make the brain very active. So eating sugar, especially in the late afternoon or evening, can mean being super hyped up come bedtime.
- Second, a high sugar diet, even if consumed mostly in the morning, can cause middle of the night awakenings. This is because frequent sugar consumption can result in extremely low blood sugar in the middle of the night. And the body’s natural response to extremely low blood sugar is a stimulating boost of cortisol to the brain, which will leave you wired at 2 am.
Eating the hot stuff before bed can be very disruptive to sleep.
- First of all, spicy foods, just like tomatoes, can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms when lying down. But the potential disruption goes deeper than that.
- Spicy foods are very warming to the body. And the internal heat created can become verystimulating to the brain.
A spicy dinner very well may end with you being wide awake in the middle of the night.
So having coffee late at night is an obvious contributor to insomnia. But you probably don’t think twice about having a piece of chocolate.
- While chocolate does not contain as much caffeine as the average cup of coffee, it is still one of the largest sources of caffeine in your diet. And eating it in the late afternoon or evening may lead to restless sleep.
- Not to mention that chocolate almost always also contains an additional simulator, sugar. So move your chocolate indulgences to earlier in the day for a more restful evening.
This group of carbohydrates includes starchy vegetables like potatoes and pumpkin as well as all bread, noodles, pizza crusts and more. These foods turn to sugar very quickly in the body. And what will follow is the same middle of the night blood sugar dip experienced after eating sweets. And just like with sugar, a stimulating 2 am surge of cortisol will likely follow. Which means that even if you fall asleep right away, your sleep quality won’t necessarily be stellar.
What Should You Eat Before Bed?
The best recipe for amazing sleep is a plate full of vegetables, a good source of protein, some healthy fats and an optional small portion of whole grains, or a warm glass of milk. And of course, blissful sleep isn’t all about diet. There are other practices and routines that, when practiced with the right diet, will greater increase your chances of winning against the insomnia monster.
And even if you don’t currently experience insomnia or disrupted sleep, it is a good idea to follow these diet tips. Nobody is immune, and insomnia often develops suddenly after years of blissful snoozing. Don’t wait until you’ve counted your five-thousandth sheep to institute these healthy diet practices. Protect your future from tossing and turning by eating for restful sleep today.