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What you eat can dramatically affect how you sleep

You’ve probably heard of avoiding caffeine in the evenings or not eating pizza right before bed, but there is more to how food and your sleep are related. Avoiding certain foods is one of the best ways you can avoid dozing-off on the job. Your meal and snack choices influence the time it takes to fall asleep, the overall quality of sleep and the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night. 

Foods that are high in fat, spicy or extra acidic can lead to acid reflux and heartburn. The resulting discomfort can be detrimental to trying to fall asleep. On top of being painful, according to Sleep.org, “… people with nighttime heartburn are more likely to have sleep problems and disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and daytime sleepiness.” Avoiding soda, fried foods and other heartburn-inducing foods late in the day will help you get more rest. 

The worst culprit when it comes to ruining sleep is sugar. Sugar negatively affects every aspect of sleep. This is backed up by a 2016 study, described in the article, “4 Ways Sugar Wrecks Your Sleep” by Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist, diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. In the study, he cites a group of volunteers that was asked to eat a reduced sugar and fat diet, while another group was allowed to eat whatever they liked. Breus reported, “The volunteers who consumed diets with more sugar spent less time in deep, slow-wave sleep. The volunteers who ate more sugar also took longer to fall asleep. And they experienced more restless sleep, with more frequent awakenings throughout the night.” 

Why does sugar do this to our sleep? Breus explained that aside from the temporary increase in energy, sugar messes with our mind. Sugar activates the reward pathways in the human brain, releasing dopamine. This can lead to cravings, which in turn can result in you feeling like you desperately need that midnight snack or before-bed bite, so much so that it can keep you from deep sleep or wake you up. This whole process of food craving and bad sleep can even make it harder for you to be satisfied with your food by negatively affecting the production of appetite-regulating hormones according to Breus.

Choosing the right foods in the evening can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep. Avoiding fat, sugar and acid will not only help you feel better rested, but keep you away from a life of cyclical, destructive habits. A better diet will lead to better sleep, which can lead to an even better diet —  lose that slice of pizza and find a happier you.