Sleep is so incredibly precious and a lack of it can make life very difficult. Feeling tired is blamed for eating junk food, overeating, lack of exercise, underperforming at work and generally in life. Many people put down their bad sleeping habits to insomnia or stress but there are some foods and diet habits that you may not have considered that play a very powerful role in how well we sleep.
Coffee and tea are a no brainer but there are other food and drinks that have enough caffeine in them to keep us up. These include chocolate, hot chocolate, green tea and cola. Cut anything containing caffeine at least 6 hours before bed.
We all know what a hit of lollies and birthday cake can do to kids after a party – well that bowl of ice cream, dessert or half a block of chocolate is calling party time right before bed at a time when you’re supposed to wind down and relax.
A nightcap does make us drowsy but that’s as far as it goes to helping us sleep. Research shows that alcohol can affect our ability to fall into the refreshing, deep sleep, which is why we often wake easily through the night after a few beverages. Alcohol is also a diuretic so we often need to get up and pop to the toilet through the night, breaking our sleep and leaving us feeling very sluggish and ‘groggy’ the next day.
Spicy & fatty foods
These foods can give us heartburn and cause a lot of discomfort before bed and during the night. Fat also slows digestion meaning that we’ve got a fuller tummy for longer so make sure to eat dinner at least an hour before bed.
Overeating and eating too close to bedtime
A full tummy right before bed can be problematic as it’s more likely to cause a reflux of food from the stomach up your oesophagus, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Eat only until you’re about 80 percent full and leave it at least 30 minutes before lying down past a 45-degree angle.
Recent research has shown that there is a correlation between the total number of calories someone consumes in a day and the length of time they sleep. The study showed that overall; those who ate the largest number of total calories had the least amount of sleep per night. And it’s a vicious cycle too as the less we sleep, the more calories we’re likely to consume, and not terribly nutritious ones at that.
By Jaime Rose Chambers | Eat Fit Food’s Dietitian and Nutritionist