Can’t sleep? It could be what you’re eating

When it comes to health, most people focus on eating right and exercise. The third piece of this puzzle is sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a recent study reported 43 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on the weeknights. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a lot of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and depression.

Tossing and turning in bed can be the result of many things. With the hectic world we live in, it could be related to stress and our inability to wind down.

It could be too many lights in your bedroom or technology at your bedside. Back in 2011, NSF reported about 1 in 10 people said they were awakened every night or almost every night by a text, phone call, or email notification on their phone.

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The wrong type of alarm clock could play a role as many people wake up in the middle of the night and seeing what time it is causes worrying about how much time there is left to sleep, or about oversleeping.

There is a correlation with our sleep patterns and waistlines. When we are short on sleep, it’s easier to skimp on exercise because we are tired.

We reach for the large coffees, sugary foods and drinks, and typically unhealthy fare to give us energy to get through the day. Not only that, but these foods are usually consumed in larger portions. Why? A lack of sleep affects our hormones — we produce more of the hormone that tells us to eat (ghrelin), and less of the one that says we are full (leptin).

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What foods can disrupt our sleep and what can we do about them?

  • A cheesy meal contains an amino acid that stimulates norepinephrine, which constricts your blood vessels and raises your blood pressure.
  • Spicy or fatty foods can intensify heartburn. Both these and high fiber foods cause our bodies to spend more energy trying to digest these foods making it hard to relax when our digestive tracts are working overtime.
  • A nightcap might help you fall asleep, but you’ll have less quality sleep. Just one drink before bed  can relax your muscles enough that you’ll have more snoring and tossing and turning since it prevents you from entering the deeper stages of sleep.
  • Exercise is an important aspect to overall health, with its timing being  just as important. Being active before bedtime can result in a poor night’s sleep as your muscles are still active and your body temperature is still high. Try working out at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Caffeine stimulates our minds. It’s best not to consume caffeine tooclose to bedtime as its stimulant effect stays in your system up to five to six hours.

Eating right, exercise, and getting adequate sleep are all important aspects to our health. Knowing how our food and drink affects our bodies can help keep us alert throughout the day and avoid excessive drowsiness.

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