After a tiring day, we all agree that when we finally lay our heads on the pillow we would like to sleep well through the night. Nothing is more annoying than insomnia, and the evidence is piling up that sleep is essential for good health. Although the research is a bit spotty when it comes to which foods harm sleep, anecdotal evidence does suggest that certain items consumed right before bedtime are more likely to be “sleep stealers,” says Russell Rosenberg, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation.
Compiled from Health magazine, here is a list of seven potential bad guys when it comes to getting some shut-eye.
1. Cruciferous vegetables
According to new research, certain veggies are better eaten at lunch. Cruciferous vegetables—such as broccoli and cauliflower—are loaded with vitamins that are great for you, but they also carry a large amount of insoluble fiber, which takes forever to digest. Holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman explains that if you eat these vegetables before bed, “your body will still be working on digesting it while you drift off,” which will in turn keep you from getting a comfortable night of sleep.
2. Red meat
Red meat, like steak or ground beef, is high in protein and has a similar effect on the body as the cruciferous vegetables. “Digestion is supposed to slow by about 50% while you’re sleeping but if you eat a lot of protein, you digest [even] more slowly,” explains Rosenberg. Instead of focusing on sleeping, your body is focusing on digesting. Adding a carbohydrate to the protein can tip the balance back towards sleep.
3. Tomato sauce
Tomato sauce is another veggie-based favourite to avoid. Because of its high acidity, it’s often the cause of morning-after heartburn and indigestion. You can still eat a bowl of spaghetti for dinner, but dietitian Alissa Rumsey says it’s best to eat it at least 3 hours before going to bed. Spicy foods, which are also notorious for causing heartburn, make for an extra restless night of sleep because they raise your core body temperature. So if you were wondering why you had a nightmare after munching on some chilli tomato sauce, you now have an answer.
4. Cured meats and cheeses
Cured meats and cheeses are great for a daytime picnic, but not for dinner. If you planned on ending your day with a fabulous charcuterie platter, reconsider moving it to brunch: cured meats and cheeses contain tyramine, an amino acid that makes you more alert.
5. Dark chocolate
Such foods contain amino acid that makes you alert, similar to the one found in cured meats and cheeses. Dark chocolate is double the energy, making it a much better snack for the afternoon than the middle of the night
This one should come as no surprise, but it’s actually your afternoon coffee drinking that can have more of an effect on your sleep than you would expect. Caffeine can remain in your system for hours, so it’s best to avoid it for several hours before going to bed. It’s full on sugar, which leaves you wide awake, and has even been connected to restless sleep.
7. High-fat foods
“High-fat foods such as chips, fried foods, or ice cream should be avoided before bed,” advises Rosenberg. Fat takes a long time to digest which will keep the body awake, or not well-rested, throughout the [digestion] process.
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