Many of us assume that provided we go to bed by a certain time, do some exercise and keep stress levels under control, we are guaranteed a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that for some and night after night it’s a mystery as to why they’re having trouble sleeping! If this sounds all too familiar, it may be time to hone in on your diet to see whether what you are eating might be why you can’t sleep, says nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin. Here, she recommends some leads to get you started.
Whether it is a coffee or matcha latte to push you through the 3pm slump, pre-workout formula prior to a gym session or a cocoa laden dessert, those sensitive to the effects of caffeine can notice a negative impact on sleep. Even consuming caffeine as long as 6 hours prior to sleep has been shown to impact sleep. For some, this won’t be a problem but if you are in denial about your caffeine intake, it may be time to re-assess!
If you regularly devour bad fats such as trans fats found in fried foods over good quality fats, it might be impacting sleep. Instead opt for good fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both of which are critical for the optimal functioning of the brain and are associated with restorative sleep. In addition to this, if you eat too much fat at dinner time, whether it’s good or bad, it can lead to indigestion and discomfort which can go on to impact sleep.
Chilli is a chef’s essential but despite the flavour and health benefits of chilli, too much heat could play a role in poor sleep. Specifically, there is belief that spicy food can increase body temperate and disturb sleep. Not only this, but if you are prone to indigestion and acid reflux, which chilli is a known trigger of, it may be time to hold back on the spice.
Carbs are not the devil especially when it comes to maintaining weight. The key is to eat the right amount of carbs for you and this should be based on your level of activity. A big diet myth is no carbs after 5pm. If you have been following this ‘rule’ then it could be part of why you can’t sleep. Carbohydrates are necessary to help more tryptophan pass through the blood brain barrier and be used to create serotonin, an important brain chemical for regulating the sleep/wake cycle. To best support sleep, select complex carbohydrates, which also offer a dose of fibre.
If you skimp on protein come breakfast time, it could be impacting sleep. This is because, its been shown that a protein rich breakfast helps to overcome sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings later into the day and at night. If you are regularly surrendering to these cravings and grazing your way through the afternoon and night on refined sugar and carb rich snacks, this can wreak havoc on blood sugar and disturb sleep. Who would have thought that what you eat at breakfast time could impact sleep at night!
If you have gotten into the habit of winding down at the end of the day with a glass of wine or even heading to bed with a night cap, it may be time to develop new stress relieving techniques. Alcohol can make you fall asleep quicker as it is a ‘relaxant’ after all. However, its known to disrupt sleep during the latter part of the night which in turn leads to waking unrefreshed and groggy. Lack of sleep can trigger cravings for quick sources of energy such as refined sugar, which once again, sets you up for another poor nights sleep.