Getting adequate sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, roughly 45 percent of Americans experience poor or insufficient sleep. Well, what we're all eating could be the part of the problem.
Certain foods can interfere with a good night’s rest, while others can help promote quality sleep. Here are six foods that may be contributing to restless nights, and what you should be eating to catch more zzz's.
1. Wine-ing down
Are you guilty of a glass of wine (or two) before bed? Or do you pour yourself an evening “night-cap”? According to nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Superfood Swap, that might not be the best idea, “Alcohol makes it harder to fall into a deep reparative sleep.”
While a cocktail may help put you to sleep, ultimately the quality of sleep is less than optimal. Dr. Hrayr Attarian, a sleep specialist at Northwestern University, agreed.
“Alcohol is a strong sedative with a short duration of action," he explained. "It puts you to sleep, but then when it is leaving your system it becomes a stimulant and disturbs sleep in the middle of the night.”
A better way to wind down? Opt for sparkling water in a wine glass.
2. Heavy, late-night dinners
If you’re saving up all day for a big, filling dinner, you may have a hard time sleeping soundly. This is because your energy shifts to digestion after eating, and especially after eating a larger meal.
“Eating too much food, no matter what it is, close to bed time makes it hard to sleep since our body is working overtime to digest the big meal, instead of focusing on relaxing into sleep," said Blatner.
Instead, eat small meals throughout the day, and make sure to eat a light dinner at least two hours before bedtime.
3. Protein powders
Make sure that you read the label of your favorite protein powder. “Having a protein drink before bed may make it hard to sleep since some protein powders/drinks have added vitamins and minerals," Blatner said. "Especially B vitamins, which can energize you and make it hard to get to sleep.”
Instead of using protein powder as your source of nightly protein, swap it out for nut butter in your smoothie, or just cook piece of lean meat or fish with vegetables for a low-calorie dinner option.
4. Coffee and caffeine after 12 p.m.
Drinking too much caffeine, too late in the day, can really impair sleep. In fact, according to Attarian, “Caffeine has a very long duration of action and its stimulating effects can last about 12 hours.”
Make sure that you cut out caffeine at least 12 hours before your bedtime, or opt for green tea, which has a little less caffeine than coffee.
5. Chocolate and certain teas
As mentioned above, caffeine disturbs sleep, whether you think it affects you or not. However, caffeine is not just found in coffee! Having a chocolate dessert after dinner? You might want to rethink that choice!
“What’s not obvious is that caffeine is in things you may not realize like chocolate, flavored dessert teas (black/white/green based) and even decaf coffee has some," Blatner said. Instead, opt for a caffeine-free tea, like chamomile, or have a small handful of sweetened granola.
If you find yourself parched in the evening, and then drink a lot of water before bed, you probably make a few bathroom trips in the middle of the night, which has a negative impact on your sleep.
Instead of waiting until you physically feel dehydrated (and then drinking too much water at night), put alarms on your phone to remind you to drink water throughout the day. Try to meet your recommended daily amount of water before dinner to ensure you won’t be disrupting sound sleep with frequent bathroom trips.
Give yourself some time to implement these changes. You can even keep a sleep journal or a sleep log to track what you’re eating before bed, and how well-rested you feel the next day. Then you’ll have evidence to analyze and determine what’s working and what’s not!