The Top Food and Drinks that Sabotage Your Sleep
- While there are many reasons people can struggle with poor sleep, they often overlook one of the biggest culprits–what we eat and drink.
- Food and drinks can wreak havoc on your sleep and leave you dragging through your day with low energy, feeling unengaged and unable to enjoy people and activities.
- In this article, I share with you the top food and drinks that sabotage your sleep and what you can do about it.
by Dr. John Neustadt
Nearly 80% of the population struggle with problems sleeping. If you’re like me, who’s had nights where I couldn’t fall asleep, or I’m tossing and turning or I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, you know how devastating this can be.
Not only does sleep deprivation leave you dragging through your day and less able to enjoy your interactions and perform at your best, poor sleep makes you tired, irritable, depressed and makes it difficult to concentrate and get everyday tasks done. It’s so bad that research shows that sleep deprivation decreases your quality of life as much as congestive heart failure. And who needs that?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. While there are many reasons why people can’t sleep, including medications that cause insomnia, inappropriate use of technology, and social jetlag, food has profound impacts on health and can be an important part of a holistic approach that includes diet, lifestyle and dietary supplements. Below are my best diet tips to help you get a better night’s sleep so you can start feeling more rested, refreshed, bright-eyed and ready for your day.
Your Mid-Afternoon Coffee Pick-Me-Up
More than 80% of Americans drink coffee. And while it may be America’s favorite pick-me-up drink, it can be too much of a good thing. Drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening can keep you tossing and turning at night. If you find yourself having a hard time falling asleep and you’re drinking coffee late in the day, stop it.
Mid-afternoon energy slumps are typically due to low blood sugar. Instead of reaching for the caffeine, reach for a protein snack. Protein is one of the best ways to regulate blood sugar and get some good, healthy energy. For a list of healthy protein snacks, download the NBI Protein Handout.
Energy is produced by mitochondria in our cells. To provide targeted nutritional support to promote healthy energy all day long, you can also take NBI’s MitoForte. The ingredients in MitoForte have been shown to increase energy, memory and mood by 60%, without any stimulants.
Acid Reflux Foods
Acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), is better known as plain old heartburn. When most people think of heartburn they think of a burning in their chest or back of their throat. And while heartburn creates those problems, you can also have heartburn without burning. Heartburn can show up as a dry, hacking cough. Whether it’s a burning sensation or a dry hacking cough, the symptoms of heartburn are worse when laying down and improve when standing up. Heartburn can make it hard to fall asleep and wake you up during the night.
Some foods are known heartburn triggers. If you’re experiencing heartburn symptoms try cutting the following foods out of your diet for a few days and see if your health and sleep improve:
- alcohol, particularly red wine.
- black pepper, garlic, raw onions, and other spicy foods.
- citrus fruitsand products, such as lemons, oranges and orange juice.
- coffeeand caffeinated drinks, including tea and soda.
Snoring Caused by Diet
Diet can cause snoring and snoring can effect your sleep and health. Breathing entails taking air in from the outside into our lungs. To do that effectively and efficiently, we need clear airways.
When air can’t flow smoothly through your nose to the back of your mouth and down your trachea to your lungs, it can cause snoring. Not only can that create problems with your partner by waking them up, it can wake you up too or keep you from reaching the deep, restorative stage of sleep your body needs. This can leave you feeling tired and dragging through your day.
And while there are lots of companies selling anti-snoring promises—strips that attach to your nose, mouthpieces that thrust your jaw forward or devices that stick into your nose, adjustable beds—one easy, no-cost solution that too often gets overlooked is diet.
I’m speaking from first-hand experience. For years I struggled with snoring. I tried every device known. Some would work for a while and then stop. Others were just utter failures or would help but the device itself was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep. In some cases the solution was worse than the problem.
But then I realized when I’d eat certain foods I’d start experiencing post-nasal drip and congestion. When I avoided those foods I wasn’t congested and, lo-and-behold, I didn’t snore. Post-nasal drip is an immune reaction, which can be triggered by allergies.
While people can react to anything, in my clinical experience the most common foods people seem to react is dairy and eggs. Try eliminating dairy and eggs for a few days and see if this helps.
One surprising food (actually a drink) that I discovered was the biggest problem for me was coffee. I loved and drank coffee for many years. But I realized recently that when I’d drink coffee I would get a bit phlegmy. So I did an experiment. I quit coffee. Cold turkey. Three days later I realized I had no post-nasal drip. Not only was I breathing easier, but my snoring decreased by 90% according to my wife and we were actually able to sleep in the same bed again without me waking her up all night sawing wood.
Alcohol’s Harmful Effects
Not only can alcohol make acid reflux worse, it can wreak havoc on your sleep for other reasons too. Alcohol is a sedative, and while it can decrease the time it takes people to fall asleep, research shows that for many people there’s a rebound effect. Meaning, alcohol wakes them up in the middle of the night.
And you may be waking up in the middle of the night from alcohol for a different reason too. Alcohol makes you pee. Alcohol is a diuretic and increases the kidney’s production of urine. In addition to waking you up, many people who get woken up at night have a hard time falling back to sleep.
Alcohol also can increase your snoring, which can decrease sleep quality and leave you feeling tired and groggy in the morning.
Blood Sugar Problems Caused by Diet
While low blood sugar can create a mid-afternoon drop in energy, it can also wake you up from a deep sleep. When your blood sugar drop, hormones are released to breakdown stored sugars and increase the amount of sugar in your blood. The hormones that do that are cortisol and epinephrine. But they not only free up sugar for your body to use, they also wake you up.
One way to help control your blood sugar at night is to avoid eating sugary desserts and snacks in the evening and to eat about 10 grams of protein before bed. For a list of healthy protein snacks, download the NBI Protein Handout.
These dietary solutions can have profound, positive impacts on your sleep and improve your energy and quality of life. And if you need a little additional help, take NBI Sleep Relief. The proprietary formula and bi-phasic, time-release delivery system I created helps you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake refreshed.
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