How The Food You Eat Can Affect Your Sleep

Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Over 50 million Americans struggle with a sleep disorder, and 20 to 30 million more have intermittent sleep issues.

There can be a wide variety of causes — consulting your doctor is advisable. In the meantime, here’s a look at how what you’re eating may be affecting your sleep patterns.

High-Fat Foods

If you find yourself snacking on high-fat foods late at night, even healthful fats like avocado, they may be disrupting your sleep. Foods high in fat activate your digestion, which can cause more frequent trips to the bathroom.

These types of foods can also cause bloating or indigestion, potentially interrupting a solid night’s rest. Avoid fried foods, loaded burritos, cheeseburgers, french fries, and the like in the hours before you go to bed.

What to Eat Instead

If you’re the kind who craves something salty before sleep, try lightly salted and steamed edamame instead. Edamame is a powerhouse bean, packed with protein and magnesium. Some small studies have suggested magnesium promotes relaxation and can help you fall asleep.

Raw Cruciferous Vegetables

Yep, even raw veggies can affect your sleep. While vegetables like broccoli, celery, cauliflower, or carrots are very healthy for you and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, they’re also very high in fiber.

Similar to high-fat foods, these veggies take a long time to move through your digestive system. That means your body is working to digest them for hours after consumption, potentially disrupting your sleep patterns. Aim to consume these types of veggies with lunch.

What to Eat Instead

Substitute raw vegetables with a banana. Fresh bananas contain tryptophan (the amino acid also in turkey that everyone blames for Thanksgiving naps), magnesium, and potassium to help relax you.

Cured Meat

Pepperoni, sausage, and bacon fall into this category. Cured meats contain tyramine, which is an amino acid that boosts the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone, meaning your brain experiences elevated levels of stress when it gets activated. Not conducive to drifting off peacefully.

What to Eat Instead

For a protein shot before bed, stick to lean and unprocessed meat like turkey slices. Pair the lean meat with a whole grain bread or wrap so the complex carb helps you feel full as you try to sleep. Vegetarians can try the edamame trick from earlier or a handful of almonds. Both are high in magnesium.

Spicy Foods

Consuming spicy foods like hot peppers or sauce can interfere with your sleep. These foods may trigger heartburn or indigestion, especially in sensitive folks.

They also raise your core body temperature. Because your body temperature naturally decreases as you wind down for bed, raising it can cause you to feel awake or unable to relax.

What to Eat Instead

Try for more bland foods before bed. You don’t have to avoid spice entirely, but save the extra hot stuff for breakfast or lunch. Opt for gentler dinners like alfredo-sauced pasta or creamy soups.

Highly Acidic Foods

Ketchup, marinara sauce, and orange juice all fall into this category. Foods with a high acid content can result in your esophagus staying open longer, leading to heartburn and indigestion. Even if you don’t feel heartburn, it can still partially wake you up, disrupting your sleep.

What to Eat Instead

Stick to low-acid foods like tofu, melons, or sweet potatoes with your dinner. These are alkaline foods, meaning they’re the opposite of acidic. Plus, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals.

Matcha or Green Tea

Green tea has an extensive array of benefits; helping you sleep isn’t one of them. Green tea is loaded with caffeine. It’s also got two other substances: theobromine and theophylline. These may cause increased heart rate, anxiety, or feelings of nervousness.

What to Eat Instead

While there aren’t many studies to prove chamomile tea will help you sleep, it’s been used for thousands of years as a calming agent. It’s caffeine-free, so you can still reap the benefits of a soothing warm cup before bed to help you wind down.

High-Sugar Foods

Foods high in sugar, like sodas, fruit juices, desserts, and the like, are absolutely disruptive to your sleep. They cause spikes and subsequent crashes in your blood sugar levels, giving you extra energy before zapping it back down.

What to Eat Instead

Stick with lean proteins and leafy vegetables for dinner. If you must have something sweet afterward, try the banana trick from earlier. You can also chew sugar-free gum or eat a few strawberries.

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