Sleep loss can be chalked up to many causes but a common charge is the stresses and strains of modern-day living. While this may hold some kernel of truth, it is an unhelpful way to approach it as you cannot change the status quo. A more manageable approach is to focus on your daily rituals to identify potential triggers within your grasp.
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Diet is an often overlooked yet common cause of sleep loss, and certain foods can hinder the body’s ability to unwind.
According to Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan and author of The Detox Kitchen Bible, here are five of the culprits:
According to Hobson, this is a particular problem for women during the menopause.
He explains: “Spicy food can also trigger hot flushes in women during the menopause which will of course interfere with sleep.”
Eating spicy foods close to bedtime can also exacerbate the reflux associated with heartburn, says Hobson.
“If you do get hit with heartburn, then try sleeping on your left hand side as this works alongside gravity to drive reflux back down into the gut,” he advises.
As Hobson points out, chocolate is one of the the lesser known sources of caffeine that many people do not consider.
He explains: “Chocolate is more likely to affect those that are sensitive to caffeine (those with the slow variant of the CYP1A2 gene), but it does also add to your daily intake of this compound and could be thing that tips you over the edge and interrupts sleep.”
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According to Hobson, cheese contains high amounts of the amino acid tyramine which can be a trigger for migraines.
“This amino acid also causes the release of a hormone called norepinephrine which can stimulate the brain, and this may interrupt sleep alongside other factors of seep hygiene,” he adds.
It is therefore wise to heed the old wives’ tale and avoid cheese too close to bedtime.
Sugary breakfast cereals
As Hobson notes, this doesn’t just apply to cereals because any food with a high sugar content can disrupt the sleep-cycle, but cereal is a popular snack before bedtime.
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As Hobson explains: “Eating high amounts of sugar across the day has the potential to impact on your sleep quality and can pull you out of the stage of deep sleep during the night.”
Food high in saturated fats
Foods that are high in saturated fats, such as greasy burgers can take a long time to digest in the gut and this can exacerbate heartburn as more stomach acid is released, warns Hobson.
Eating such foods close to bed is likely to make the effect more pronounced, he says.
To stay on the safe side, you should opt for lighter foods and stick to high-protein, low-fat foods with plenty of vegetables.
As Hobson notes, protein helps to stimulate bile which can help with digestion and low fat/veggies are more easily and quicker digested to make heartburn a little less likely.
“These foods can also promote weight gain and obesity which are risk factors for sleep apnoea which is a factor that can keep overweight individuals awake at night,” he adds.
Sleep apnoea, a condition which causes inconsistent and interrupted breathing, is surprisingly common.
One review claimed that 24 percent of men and nine percent of women have sleep apnea.
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