6 Foods That are Destroying Your Sleep

There should be no debate or contention that good sleep is a fundamental requirement for being healthy… Seriously, can anyone think of a single strong argument against sleep being a fundamental requirement to functioning at 100%?

And yet, on average, we really struggle with it…Around 60,000,000 prescriptions for sleeping pills were prescribed in the US in 2011. It’s estimated that 62% of Canadians suffer from sleep deprivation.

When I ask patients in practice about why they don’t get more sleep the response is usually something like: “I don’t have time… I have too much to do… I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and I TOTALLY get that – it never seems like there are enough hours in the day… And the waking hours we do have are always jam packed! 

So much to do!

Wake up, get the kids breakfast, take them to school, work, pick the kids up, after school sports, cook dinner, eat, cleaning up – and then you still have to prep for the next day because you need to do all of this again tomorrow.

Insufficient sleep has adverse effects on well-being, cognitive and psychomotor function, alertness, productivity, safety, learning and mood, and is also implicated in a range of other pathological processes, including metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders. 

A lack of sleep can dramatically affect a number of important processes, including:

  • Cellular repair
  • Memory and problem solving
  • Mood and mental health
  • Inflammation
  • Weight gain

In fact, it goes even deeper than that – a 2013 study found that by REDUCING the amount of sleep you get by only one hour changes the activity of over 500 genes, primarily effecting those promoting inflammation. These changes were REVERSED when an extra hour of sleep was added back into the same test group.

Let’s look at specific foods to avoid for better sleep.

1. COFFEE

Okay, there isn’t really much of a debate about this one. Coffee is a major source of caffeine, which acts as a neuro-stimulant. Stimulants of this kind cause an increase in brain activity, particularly sympathetic nervous system activity, making it harder to fall asleep. To be safe, you should make sure your last cup of java happens BEFORE 3pm.

2. ALCOHOL

Once in a while you may reach for an extra adult beverage to help you wind down and relax before bed. Bad news is, while alcohol can make you feel drowsy, it actually prevents you from fully entering REM sleep – the deep type of sleep where all your healing and growth takes place. Several hours of REM sleep is required in order for you to wake up feeling refreshed and rested.

3. JUNK FOOD

Foods high in trans fats and sugar like chips, cookies, fries and other late night snack foods are bad for you for a number of reasons. One reason is that these foods put undue chemical stress on your body, making it more difficult for it to perform tasks like healing, growth and – you guessed it – sleep.

4. CHOCOLATE

Chocolate, like coffee, contains caffeine. This, plus sugar and other preservatives can make for a difficult night’s sleep.

5. DRIED FRUITS

As well as typically being high in sugar content, dried fruits like apricots, dates and cranberries are high in fibre. Eating high fibre foods close to bed can be a lot for your body to digest, leading to indigestion, bloating, cramping and gas. 

6. GREEN TEA

Although it has a load of fat burning, antioxidizing, liver cleansing power, it also naturally contains theobromine, theophylline and caffeine. These all act as stimulants, causing disturbances in sleep.

Obviously food isn’t the only thing that affects people’s sleep – there’s stress, fitness, other health conditions, and perhaps most insidious, the use of technology throughout the day but focusing on reducing some of these foods can help!