This week, Targitfit is pleased to bring you an informative article by Debbie Woodliffe:
Sleep is an elusive creature sometimes. You never really know if you’re going to have a lovely deep REM cycle or an uncomfortable night where your brain just won’t shut up. It’s tricky, but the food you eat during the day has an impact. You need to know things such as:
- Eating before you sleep – good or bad?
- Foods that disrupt sleep
- Foods that help you sleep
Read on to explore the relationship between food and sleep to see if you can improve your rest…
Eating Before You Sleep – Good Or Bad?
So, eating before bed. There are urban myths like cheese giving you nightmares and eating late makes you gain weight – but what’s the truth?
It is true that when we wind down for the night, our metabolisms do slow down marginally to allow our bodies to recover from the hard day behind. Everything slows down – your mind and your heart rate, your temperature reduces, and all your muscles relax. So, it’s fair to assume that the food we eat before bed is more likely to be stored as fat than it is metabolised. This has been supported by studies from Northwestern University researchers and more.
On the other hand, some studies say when you eat does not affect your weight at all. Instead, it’s the quality and type of food combined with your physical activity levels that impact your weight gain or loss.
It’s a tricky subject, and unfortunately, there’s no one clear answer. However, you know your own body better than anyone, and you feel when you need fuel. So, it’s best to listen to yourself and eat when your body needs it. The trick is being able to tell the difference between munching out of boredom or routine or actually needing fuel.
Cheese does not give you nightmares (unless you’re lactose intolerant). Any unsettled sleep is probably just your body digesting food and disrupting your natural sleep-wake cycle.
But don’t just listen to your hunger and cravings. What you eat has a huge impact on your sleep – especially if you have conditions like heartburn or acid reflux. Lying down after eating can often make these conditions worse as it’s easier for stomach acid to access your throat when reclined. The UK’s National Health Service recommends sleeping with your head and chest raised above your waist to restrict access, and to avoid anything triggering like coffee, tomatoes and spicy foods at least 3-4 hours before bed.
Even without health conditions, certain foods can both help or hinder your natural circadian rhythm.
Foods That Disrupt Sleep
There are loads of foods to avoid before you try to sleep if you want a decent 40 winks. We’ve mentioned spicy foods and caffeine-filled beverages, but there are so many more:
- Fatty foods
We’re talking burgers and cheese, fried things – anything that has a high-fat content. These kinds of fatty foods amp up your stomach acid production to aid digestion. And, as we’ve already mentioned, doing this before bed can lead to heartburn and acid reflux when you lie down.
This one is pretty obvious – caffeine is a stimulant. It works to keep you alert and can stick around in your body for up to 5 hours after consumption, so it’s best to go decaf or forego it all together in the evenings.
A good old-fashioned nightcap may seem like the ideal to help you drop off, but it could be disrupting your sleep overall. While it has sedative properties, these can mess with your natural REM cycle and result in lower-quality sleep and a shorter duration.
Too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Drinking or consuming water-rich food and drink before bed might give you a full bladder during the night, meaning you have to get up. Not ideal!
- Sugary foods
Sugar messes with your glucose levels and is a stimulant like coffee. Considering your blood sugar levels already fluctuate naturally during sleep, giving it added fuel and artificial sugar isn’t going to help.
Foods That Help You Sleep
So, there are a lot of foods to avoid, but what about all those stories centred around a warm glass of milk helping you off to sleep? Are they true? Well, here are a few sleep-friendly options recommended for late-night snackers:
Not overly sweet options, but sour cherries, berries or kiwi fruits are a healthy, sleep-friendly option as they are full of beneficial vitamins and sleep-friendly natural hormones like melatonin.
It’s an obvious one, but it does help thanks to the naturally occurring melatonin within it. Heating helps you feel warm and cozy, which can promote sleep as well. For further sleep encouragement, some add malt powder to their late-night milky drinks. It adds extra vitamins to your beverage and tastes lovely when heated up.
Nuts are all-around good for you. They’re a source of beneficial fats, proteins and are full of healthy vitamins. Almonds, walnuts and cashews are good snacking options for sleep as they have higher levels of melatonin.
If you have a sweet tooth, a few squares of dark chocolate will be a fine snack before bed, but don’t overindulge. The key is to avoid stimulating foods and stick to calming, sleep-friendly foods. And to only eat when you need to.
Sleep can be a tricky task, but all you need to do is take a look at what you’re eating and how you’re sleeping. With a few tweaks and watching what you eat, your REM cycle will be happier, and you’ll feel much more well-rested.
Debbie Woodliffe is a writer currently working for Affinity Agency based in the UK. Her main goal is to help others learn and develop through her writing.