You’re lying awake in the middle of the night in your bed. You turn to look at the clock on your bedside table: 2:47 AM, it reads. Why can’t I fall asleep?
Sleep is essential for our well-being and daily functioning – just as much as healthy eating and exercising. The lack of good sleep can impair our cognitive performance, weight and health condition. In short, achieving good health is not possible without good sleep.
As Americans, we delay sleep for as long as we can in favor of “getting more stuff done.” However, the foods we eat (and how we eat them) right before our slumber can significantly affect the quality of our sleep, causing an inverse effect on how much we can actually get done during the day.
Here are five eating habits you may be making that are sabotaging your sleep pattern.
Eating spicy and acidic foods
Though this one may seem obvious at first, curries and chilis aren’t the only offenders in this category. Whether you’ve struggled with GERD or not, acidic foods (that you may not even realize were acidic) can kill sleep efforts because of the heartburn they can trigger and aggravate when lying down. These include fresh meats and processed meats, such as corned beef and turkey, fish and many citrus juices.
Going for a nightcap
Unwinding with a glass of wine may feel relaxing at first, but alcohol may not exactly be the sleep aid that we may have thought. Contrary to popular belief, its rebound effect can actually keep you up in the wee hours of the night due to its effect on neuronal inhibition.
Chocolate for dessert
Though this may be bad news for sweet tooths, it may be best to watch out for your after-dinner treats. While dark chocolate contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help you relax, milk chocolate doesn’t contain serotonin and can actually make you feel more awake.
While consuming protein during the day can be very beneficial, you may want to avoid it before bedtime. Foods that are high in protein are harder to digest and also contain the amino acid tyrosine, which promotes brain activity.
Eating dinner too close to bedtime
With the wave of trendy health and fitness phenomenon like intermittent fasting (where eating is restricted to an eight-hour window), it’s important to recognize not just what you eat but when you eat. According to dieticians, your last big meal should be at least two to three hours before bedtime. Eating late at night will not only disrupt your sleep but may result in skipping breakfast the next morning (which runs the risk of overeating or unhealthy snacking later in the day).