8th February 2019
We’re often told about all the new and ground-breaking things there to help us drift off peacefully to sleep at night… But could the secret to a good night’s sleep actually be far simpler to achieve? Research has shown that consuming certain food and drink in the hours before we hit the hay can actually have a detrimental effect on our ability to fall asleep.
It’s a common that cheese can cause vivid dreams and nightmares if eaten in the hours before we go to bed. Whilst there’s no scientific proof of this, cheese does contain high levels of tyramine, an amino acid protein that makes the brain feel more alert. This can increase the likelihood of vivid dreams but again, there’s no real evidence to confirm this. If you’re susceptible to bad dreams in the first place, you may want to avoid bringing out the after-dinner cheese board as this may only lead to more sleep disturbing dreams.
There are no real surprises with this one… Caffeine is a substance that increases our heart rate and lowers the levels adenosine in our brain, the chemical associated with sleep and drowsiness. Essentially, as we all know, caffeine makes us feel more awake.
It is recommended that caffeine is not consumed after 2pm in the afternoon and that we should try to be limiting our daily intake of caffeine to a maximum of 400mg, or around four cups of coffee. This allows time for the effects to wear off so sleeping problems can be avoided. This may seem drastic, but caffeine can reduce sleep quality even without us necessarily feeling it. Our brains will still be more active than usual even whilst asleep if excessive caffeine has been consumed throughout the day.
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with spicy food. But similarly to cheese, spicy food has been associated with disturbed sleep. Firstly, if consumed before bed, it can raise, and make it harder to regulate, our average body temperature. This is due to the presence of capsaicin, the active ingredient in most chilli peppers. Additionally, spicy food is a primary cause of indigestion which can make getting a good night’s sleep almost impossible.
It’s a common misconception that a drink before bed is just what we need to make us feel drowsy enough to drift off to sleep and have a great night’s rest. However, alcohol has been proven to significantly reduce our quality of sleep, so even if we feel as though it helps, it can be detrimental to our sleep pattern. Alcohol can impact the rapid eye movement (REM) period of sleep which is thought to be the dreaming and restorative part of our sleep pattern. Irshaad Elbrahim, a researcher at The London Sleep Centre, stated ‘Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night’. So if you’re reliant on a nightcap to help send you to sleep, you may be disrupting your sleep more than you think.
We all give in now and again to a quick takeaway, but if you're trying to get a full night of rest, it's best to avoid the fatty, fast-foods. Takeaway food is often very acidic and contain high level of fat. This can cause acid reflux, a nasty, burning sensation in your chest and throat which can make it hard to get to sleep. Also, the high levels of fat take far longer to digest and this process will keep the body 'awake', even if you've already drifted off to sleep.