A sensible diet combined with the right supplements can greatly enhance your fitness and weight loss efforts. Even so, there are certain foods and supplements that can negatively affect sleep, and should therefore be used cautiously. Some items are fairly obvious, while others are ones you may never have considered.
You already know that caffeine can negatively affect sleep, and may cut out tea and coffee because of it. What you may not realize is that chocolate also contains caffeine, as well as a substance known as theobromine that produces similar effects. Dark chocolate is especially high in caffeine and theobromine, and should therefore be avoided for at least three hours prior to bedtime.
Many people rely on a “nightcap” to help them fall asleep. While it’s true that having a drink right before bedtime can make you drowsy, doing so can negatively affect sleep by causing you to awaken during the night. A London study showed that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep decreases during the second half of one’s cycle whenever alcoholic beverages are consumed just before nodding off. Regular alcohol usage might even increase your risk of developing sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that causes you to pause your breathing throughout the night.
#3. B Vitamins
B vitamins help the body fight free radicals, and enhance cell production. However, too many B vitamins can negatively affect sleep by producing nightmares or very vivid dreams. Vitamin B-6 can be especially harmful, as a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills showed that individuals who took 250 milligrams just before retiring had dreams that were more bizarre and produced a greater emotional impact. Scientists believe that B-6 also stimulates cortical arousal in the brain, leading to a faster heart rate and greater feelings of wakefulness.
#4. Spicy Foods
Spicy foods such as chili or salsa contain high amounts of capsaicin, which may cause body temperature to rise. Since alternative medicine advocate Dr. Joseph Mercola claims the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, this means that spicy foods could negatively affect sleep. An Australian study showed that men who consumed spicy foods just before bedtime had elevated body temperatures, and also required a longer time to enter sleep mode. If you are affected by indigestion, that rumbling in your stomach could leave you tossing and turning as well.
#5. Sugary Foods
Eating sugary foods just before nodding off can negatively affect sleep by causing your blood sugar to spike and then drop drastically. As a result you may find it more difficult to fall asleep, or could have difficulty staying in slumber mode once you do. Studies also show that as blood sugar levels drop, levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise, leading to a decrease in melatonin production. Since melatonin is largely responsible for regulating sleep cycles, a low amount of it could be responsible for you tossing and turning throughout the night.
#6. Vitamin D
According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, nearly half of all people do not get enough Vitamin D, making it a public health crisis. Those with a Vitamin D deficiency often take supplements to up their intake without realizing that doing so might negatively affect sleep. It seems that taking Vitamin D in the afternoon or evening can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. To counteract this effect, eat more foods that are high in Vitamin D such as egg yolks and cheese, and consume them at regular intervals throughout the day rather than at bedtime. Ensure any supplements you do take are part of your morning regimen – avoid taking them after lunchtime if at all possible.
#7. Tomatoes and Tomato Products
High amounts of the chemical norepinephrine in the brain is known to delay sleep and increase mental activity. Tomatoes contain high amounts of an amino acid known as tyramine, which spurs the body to release more norepinephrine. That’s not the only reason to avoid them, as tomatoes are also highly acidic and may therefore cause heartburn or acid reflux throughout the night. Dr. Michael Breus, author of “The Sleep Doctor’s Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep”, advises against eating tomatoes (or any other food containing tomato sauce such as pizza or lasagna) just before bedtime for that very reason.
#8. Bee Pollen
Although bee pollen has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, it is nonetheless known to negatively affect sleep. Reports from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) show that those who take bee pollen are very likely to suffer from insomnia. The odds of disrupted sleep are even greater among females over the age of 60 who also take potassium. Natural health advocates often tout bee pollen’s ability to increase alertness, which could be one reason why users tend to suffer from insomnia. Regardless, no specific studies have been conducted to determine exactly why bee pollen users tend to stay up at night.
#9. Fatty Foods
A fatty diet leads to larger amounts of hypocretin in the brain, a chemical that is responsible for keeping you awake. A study performed on animals even showed that a high-fat diet resulted in disrupted sleep cycles and caused subjects to experience greater sleepiness during the day. Trans fats such as those found in partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils are the ones that negatively affect sleep, and not the unsaturated fats from meat, dairy, and tropical oils. Unsaturated fats such as those play a role in regulating “good” cholesterol levels and should therefore not be eliminated from the diet.
If you have tried repeatedly to get a good night’s sleep, but find yourself tossing and turning no matter what you do, perhaps your diet or supplement regimen is to blame. Avoid or better manage these nine things that can negatively affect sleep and you should realize a noticeable difference in the quality of your slumber in a relatively short period of time. Also check out our two write ups on natural ways to sleep better, and how to improve sleep quality.