Quality sleep is essential for our psychological, physical, and emotional well being. Without sufficient sleep, we toss and turn all night or wake up often, and we end up feeling tired in the morning with no rejuvenation. Our daily decision making can be impaired, where we experience less of an ability to concentrate and increased fluctuations of mood. A lack of sleep also can impact our job performance and the quality of our family time. Diet is one of the most important considerations you can make when taking active steps to ensure you fall asleep on time and that you stay asleep. What you eat can directly impact your ability to sleep. Consider avoiding the following five foods at least three hours before your bedtime.

Pizza

As delicious as pizza is, it’s a food that should be reserved for mealtimes only, where a slice is too big to be considered a bedtime snack. Eating a full meal right before bed can keep you up, where only light snacking is advised. Plus, disturbing dreams have been shown in research to occur following binge eating and emotional eating. Pizza is the trifecta as well when it comes to common ingredients that can cause you to stay awake: cheese, marinara sauce, and pepperoni. In the same study, cheese has been shown to contribute to nightmares. Marinara sauce can cause stomach aches and cause you to wake up needing to go to the bathroom. Red cured meat like pepperoni is much more difficult to digest due to a large amount of insoluble fiber and makes your body work harder as it is trying to shut down to sleep.

Alcohol

Of course it is common to try to relax with a glass of wine or two before bed, where it is true that initially, alcohol causes your muscles to relax. However, the quality of your sleep suffers, particularly in the REM stage of sleep. It is common to feel dehydrated, waking up at 2am, during critical stages of sleep vital for restoration and rejuvenation. While reducing the time it takes to go to sleep, alcohol can increase likelihood of sleep apnea and sleepwalking. In short, alcohol does not resolve sleep problems, it creates them.

Coffee

Caffeine is commonly known as a stimulant to increase energy and alertness, signaling your body not to fall asleep. That’s why millions drink coffee in the morning before work. However, as tempting as it is to have regular coffee after dinner, switch to decaf or make sure not to have regular coffee at least six hours before bedtime. Coffee works by changing your brain chemistry, blocking the natural brain chemical from working that causes you to fall asleep. Your body can build a tolerance, which causes dependency on caffeine that impacts your sleep quality over a longer period of time than just one night.

Sugary Carbs

Heavy carbs are a big no-no right before bed. Carby foods with sugar and high saturated fat should be crossed off your list, where the worst offenders are pastries, white bread and pasta, and potato chips. High saturated fat and sugar intake are shown in research to be associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals. Cereal can be a liability too when it comes to sleep. If you are craving cereal, keep low-sugar, high-fiber types on hand like Cheerios or bran flakes instead of super sugary ones. Choosing better cereal matters because sugar throws off sleep hormones, and less fiber leads to lighter sleep patterns.

Spicy Foods

We love the sensation and taste of spices in our foods, but they can be tough on our stomachs and cause heartburn. When you eat spicy foods before bedtime, it causes your body temperature to rise, which is problematic considering that your body temperature has to decrease by two degrees in order for your body to fall asleep. Spicy foods can be hard to digest, causing gastric disturbance and indigestion that leave you restless through the night.

Taking a step back and viewing the bigger picture, could other factors besides diet be impacting your ability to fall asleep and also the quality of your sleep once you are able to fall asleep? Consider your sleep environment and sleep hardware. Have you created an environment in your bedroom conducive for peaceful slumber? Is back pain keeping you up? Sleep and its complexities are unique for every individual, where finding the right solution to achieve quality sleep is not always easy but essential for every individual’s health and wellbeing.

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Quality sleep is essential for our psychological, physical, and emotional well being. Without sufficient sleep, we toss and turn all night or wake up often, and we end up feeling tired in the morning with no rejuvenation. Our daily decision making can be impaired, where we experience less of an ability to concentrate and...