Struggling with a disrupted sleep? Change up your diet to improve your quality of sleep with the help of Next Divan

Many dieticians have proven that the foods and drinks you consume can reduce your chances of having a high quality night's sleep. In one specific study, researchers kept track of diet vs sleep on a group of healthy adults over a period of 5 days, which found that diet does in fact affect the quality of sleep. In this week's Next Divan blog, we want to explore which food and drink are best to avoid to have a better night’s sleep.

Which foods affect sleep?

You may have tried every sleep advice tip there is, but if there is no improvement it may be time to consider the food you digest! Many scientists and dieticians have proven that certain foods have a detrimental effect on the quality of a person's  sleep. The famous old wife’s tale of ‘cheese gives you nightmares’ may be partially correct. One of the worst foods you can eat before going to sleep is in fact cheese. Strong or aged cheese contains very high levels of  tyramine which makes you feel alert. The last thing your body needs before you go to sleep is energy, tyramine causes the adrenal gland to release a high energy hormone, making you feel a high level alertness for a number of hours. 

This next option to avoid may upset some of our sweet-tooth readers, but a food that affects quality of sleep is chocolate! In fact, it has been proven that chocolate possesses high levels of caffeine which causes rapid eye movement (REM) in the latter stages of sleep. This factor leads you to feel extra groggy when you wake up, therefore you should avoid consuming chocolate up 6 hours before you go to sleep to make sure you have the best night's sleep possible. 

We all know that spicy food can disrupt our body in many ways, but have you ever noticed it disrupts your sleep? For example, eating a spicy curry which contains high levels of something called capsaicin would massively elevate your body’s natural temperature, and interfere with your body's thermoregulation process, which has a massive effect on sleep. Your body also requires high energy levels to digest foods with spice, leading you to frequently waking in the night. 

Snacking on crisps should also be avoided before going to sleep, which was found in the European Society of Endocrinology’s study that found foods with high levels of salt, such as crisps, were the worst types of food to eat before bed. Foods with high levels of salt cause the body to dehydrate and increase water retention, leading us to feel highly fatigued. Experts recommend avoiding crisps before bed as they contribute to a disrupted or “superficial” sleep. 

Finally on our list of foods to avoid for a healthy sleep, is sugary foods (sweets, ice cream, cakes etc.). It is a well known fact that consuming too much sugar has a negative impact on our health, but did you know it can also massively affect our sleep health too? Foods which have a high sugar content spike blood sugar levels initially, but as we sleep those levels drastically crash. A crash in blood sugar levels alerts adrenal which is stored in our bodies for emergencies, which in turn increases cortisol levels and wakes up the body from slumber.

So the next time you fancy a late night snack, think about what that snack may contain, is it high in sugar, salt, caffeine or spice? And is it really worth losing sleep over? Alternatively our food guide may be able to direct you to realise what may be disrupting your sleep, and swapping out these particular foods may give your sleep health the boost it needs!

What drinks should you avoid before bed?

The first drink on our list is probably the most obvious, but is also a very common habit people have. Coffee is a great morning beverage, it wakes you up, boosts caffeine and gets you ready for the day! But why are so many people making the mistake of drinking it before bed? Coffee has become a comfort drink for many across the globe, people enjoy the taste of it over the energy boosting qualities, which is leading more and more people to drink coffee before going to bed. One study found that even drinking coffee 6 hours before bed reduces your total sleep time by one whole hour. Drinking coffee before bed can have a detrimental effect on your sleep health, and even decaf has been proven to still contain caffeine.

Another very obvious drink to avoid before bed is energy drinks. There is no need to consume an energy drink at all, due to their massive negative health effects, but people love the taste of them and are always buying more! An energy drink contains up to 3 times the amount of caffeine than coffee, making you on high alert which would lead to a huge overall reduction in sleep time. 

Fizzy drinks are also on our list of drinks to avoid before bed. As well as caffeine, these drinks are loaded with sugar! The caffeine makes it very difficult for you to initially fall asleep, but the sugar makes it even harder for you to stay asleep. Anything with a high sugar content, spikes your sugar levels extremely high at first but then crashes them drastically low as we sleep, which increases cortisol levels and causes us to wake in the night. 

Alcohol is definitely something to be avoided before sleep, although it has a drowsy effect on our bodies and may make you fall asleep quickly, alcohol has a very negative effect on our bodies whilst we rest. Alcohol increases your need to urinate more frequently in the night, which in turn wakes you up and damages your pattern of sleep. Alcohol also causes rapid eye movement (REM), as well as causing symptoms of insomnia if over consumed, and worsening the severity of sleeping problems such as snoring and sleep apnea. 

Our final beverage to avoid before sleep, is surprisingly water! Although water should be consumed throughout the day to maintain healthy hydration levels and keep our bodies going, drinking water before bed disrupts your urine balance and may cause you to want to urinate more frequently during the night and disrupt your sleeping pattern. 

So what should you be eating and drinking in the evening?

It’s best to avoid drinking before bed all together, if you drink enough water throughout the day to keep you hydrated you will not require a drink before bed, leading you to an undisrupted, peaceful night's sleep. However plenty of people enjoy an alternative beverage on a weekend such as fizzy drinks and alcohol, but you don’t have to cut these out of your life completely, as long as they are drunk in moderation and not excessively enough to disrupt your regular sleep pattern.

We all love a late night snack, and you can still enjoy them whilst avoiding the bad ingredients which can disrupt your sleep. There are plenty of foods that you can eat that in fact improve your quality of sleep! Cherries contain melatonin which promotes a longer deeper sleep, as well as raw honey which also stimulates melatonin and shuts off orexin which helps you fall into a deeper sleep. Bananas also help induce sleep with their high levels of magnesium that relaxes the body and prepares muscles for rest. Finally turkey is a great healthy food option and a high source of protein, turkey naturally has a high level of tryptophan which is an essential amino acid that acts as a mood regulator, calming any anxieties or recurring thoughts that make it difficult for you to easily fall asleep.