If you’re suffering from sleepless nights, you find it hard to get to sleep or you constantly wake up during the night, you’re not alone. Only ten per cent of adults in the UK say they enjoy a good night’s sleep every night.
There are various factors that can contribute to sleep problems, from stress, pressure at work and living with somebody who snores, to changes in routine and illness. But have you ever thought about how your diet could be impacting on the quality of your sleep?
Eating certain foods and eating at certain times of the day can affect sleep patterns. Here are some examples of foods to avoid if you want a good night’s sleep:
Many people enjoy a hot drink in the evening, but it’s advisable to steer clear of drinks that contain a lot of caffeine, such as tea and coffee and to stick to decaffeinated versions, warm milk or malt drinks. Research shows that the caffeine hit usually occurs between 1 and 4 hours after drinking, so this may coincide with when you aim to crawl into bed aiming to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Eating a large, heavy meal before you go to bed is inadvisable, as your body will be busy digesting. You may also find it hard to get to sleep if you suffer from indigestion and heartburn. It’s best to try and eat your meal around 3 hours before you head off to bed.
Fast food, such as burgers, chips, pizza and takeaway Chinese and Indian dishes tend to contain saturated fats, additives and colourings, which are bad news for the digestive system, especially at night. Fats stimulate acid production in the stomach, which increases the risk of heartburn and indigestion.
If you do fancy indulging, try to recreate a healthier version at home, for example using lean mince, salad and a wholegrain bun for a burger, and avoid eating just before you try and get to sleep.
Eating fast food on a regular basis also increases the risk of weight gain and being overweight is one of the main risk factors for snoring. Snoring can affect your own quality of sleep, as well as disturbing others around you.
Energy drinks are stimulants, and have the opposite of the desired effect when you want to go to sleep. They are also laden with sugar and artificial colourings.
Milk: many people associate a glass of warm milk with bedtime and this can help to get you into a routine. There is also evidence to suggest that tryptophan, the amino acid that is converted to serotonin, can facilitate good sleep.
Jasmine rice: studies show that eating jasmine rice makes it easier to get to sleep. Surprisingly, even though jasmine rice has a high glycemic index score, a small study showed that people fell asleep twice as fast as those whose at low GI, long-grain rice.
Wholegrain cereal: if you fancy an evening snack, try to avoid biscuits and cakes and go for a healthy bowl of cereal instead. Bran, wholegrain flakes and oats are all good sources of fibre and they also release glucose into the bloodstream slowly.