Food and Sleep

Sleep is a precious commodity: few of us get enough. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, more than 35% of American adults get less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis.

As any overworked and under rested adult will agree, fatigue and lethargy are the most common and noticeable side effects of poor or insufficient sleep. However, not engaging in enough sleep has a number of other serious and potentially damaging side effects on a physiological level.

Insufficient sleep can increase your risk for life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Poor sleep creates a system of systemic inflammation that weakens the immune system and leaves you susceptible to colds and flus, as well as other, more serious illnesses.

Physical health aside, insufficient sleep causes poor cognitive function and is harmful for emotional stability. Individuals with poor sleep patterns are more prone to anxiety, depression, and other emotional and behavioral disorders.

Clearly, there are many benefits of sleep, and a plethora of information on how to engage in higher quality, more restful sleep.

You may be surprised to find, however, that nutrition also plays a crucial role in sleep quality.

The foods you eat and the beverages you drink on a daily basis can ultimately improve your sleep or decrease the quality or duration of your sleep. When you eat also plays an important role in the quality of your sleep, especially with regards to falling and staying sleep.

Food: Snoozers vs Stimulants

 When it comes to foods and beverages, there are the obvious culprits that will keep you awake: caffeine, in the form of energy drinks, coffee, energy shots, and tea are common culprits, acting as stimulants that keep you awake long after the sun has gone down.

However, there are other foods, beverages, and nutrition patterns that should be avoided in order to ensure a good night’s sleep.

While a nightcap- be it a cocktail or a glass of wine- is commonly touted as a quick recipe to restful sleep, drinking alcohol before bed works to disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm. It also interferes with the body’s ability to enter REM sleep, which is considered the most restorative sleep stage.

Other foods to avoid before sleep include spicy foods, foods high in fat, carbonated beverages, and highly acidic foods, as all of these can contribute to acid reflux, creating a burning sensation, nausea, or digestive upset that interferes with your ability to engage in restful sleep.

Remember that when you eat or drink is also highly important: eating too close to bedtime can leave you feeling uncomfortably full and unable to fall asleep.

If you plan to eat before bed, make sure your snack is relatively light and healthy. Look for foods that are digested easily, are low in added sugar, and aren’t overly high in Calories: a piece of fruit, a yogurt, a handful of crackers, or a string cheese are all good choices.

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