What you eat and drink affects everything – your health, your focus, your moods, and even your sleep. If you’ve been having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or have been waking up feeling like you’re not well-rested, then it may be the fault of what you’ve been consuming. Let’s talk about how alcohol and food affect your sleep.
Many people make the mistake of using alcohol as a sleep aid, because it makes the drinker drowsy and allows them to fall asleep more easily. But alcohol actually does way more damage than good when it comes to sleep. In fact, it’s notorious for making sleep disorders worse!
Your sleep cycle is divided into several segments – light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. These stages repeat around every 90 minutes. When you consume alcohol, it allows you to fall asleep faster, yes, and for the first half of the night, you may sleep more soundly and deeper. But during the second half of the night, your sleep cycles begin to become unbalanced and out of sync. This can cause you to jolt awake during the night and find yourself staring at the ceiling at four in the morning.
The area where alcohol affects your body the most is REM sleep. Studies have found that moderate or high amounts of alcohol consumed can reduce the percentage of REM sleep, causing you to not get enough of the rest you need. Not only can this cause you to wake up feeling groggy and unrested, it can also have negative effects on your mental focus, cognitive function, and motor skills, leading to a bad day ahead.
Alcohol has also been found to increase your chances of snoring, needing to pee in the middle of the night, and even worse, sleepwalking – also known as parasomnia. Extreme cases of parasomnia caused by too much alcohol can even lead you to get up, go to your car, and start driving, all while completely asleep. It goes without saying that this doesn’t spell good news for your life and safety. Alcohol also amplifies the symptoms of restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
Want to drink alcohol without having it affect your sleep? Allow at least three hours before your last drink and bedtime, stay clear of bubbly alcohols or ones with carbonation mixed in, and try to drink two glasses of water per glass of alcohol you consume.
You are what you eat, and what you eat during the day affects how you sleep during the night. Not only does it have consequences in regards to how restful sleep is, but it can also reset the body’s entire clock and cause you to go running on a different time!
Research has found that if you eat too much saturated fat and sugar during the day, or even not enough fiber, your sleep cycle could be disturbed and cause you to wake up several times during the night. Eating like this may also result in feelings of tiredness even after a full night of sleep, as your body is not able to stay in REM long enough to enjoy its restorative properties. Poor sleeping patterns have also been linked to general overeating, obesity, and metabolic conditions, so the best way to have a good sleep is to ensure a healthy, balanced diet.
Other foods that might be affecting how well you sleep are proteins, if they’re consumed too close to bedtime. Amino acids, which come from proteins, are great for stimulating brain activity, but that’s not something you want to be experiencing when you’re trying to sleep and may cause you to be up late into the night with your mind whirling.
In addition, sudden changes in your eating habits and patterns can reset your body’s internal clock, making you sleepy during the day and restless during the night. Try not to move around your mealtimes so much, and stick to a regular routine when it comes to meals and snacks. This is especially true regarding late night meals. Eating too late can give your body too much fuel for it to settle down in the coming hours, resulting in difficulty drifting off to dreamland.
If you feel hungry late at night, opt for carbs. They have higher glycemic indices, which can make you feel sleepy and drowsy. However, remember that this must be done in moderation, as too much of anything isn’t good for you. Some great late-night food ideas are small portions of:
- Oatmeal or cereal
- Plain crackers with cheese, peanut butter, or turkey
- Yoghurt with oats
- Apples or pears with cheese
Eating and drinking well, but still having issues with sleep? It could be due to your mattress, the materials used in your bedding, and many other possible issues. Find out more tips on how to get a better sleep and make sure you’re using the best mattress and bedding at Sleepedia.