Alaska Sleep Education Center

Food-Related Health Conditions That Can Affect Your Sleep

Posted by Ainsley Lawrence on Jun 7, 2021 2:37:00 AM

Man feeling bad and not sleeping

Your diet plays a big role in your ability to get a good night's sleep. What and how much you eat can affect sleep quality and duration, according to the Sleep Foundation. In addition, several food-related conditions can have far-flung effects on your sleep regimen.

Now, let's look at four food-related conditions that can affect your sleep, along with ways to combat these issues.

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD, aka a form of reflux, occurs when stomach acid frequently moves back into the esophagus. When this happens, acid reflux irritates the esophagus, which can cause any of the following symptoms:

  • Heartburn
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Extreme salivation
  • Inability to keep food down (regurgitation)
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Inability to tolerate certain foods or liquids
  • Bad breath
  • Sour taste in the mouth

Along with the aforementioned symptoms, those who are dealing with GERD are susceptible to trouble sleeping. This is because GERD symptoms can worsen when people try to go to sleep, the Sleep Foundation points out.

When a person with GERD lies down in bed, gravity makes it impossible to keep their stomach acid down. This increases the likelihood that reflux can occur.

Also, people are less prone to swallowing while they are sleeping. This pushes stomach acid downward, which can result in chest pain or discomfort in those coping with GERD.

Saliva production dwindles as people sleep, too. Thus, those dealing with GERD have less saliva available to help neutralize stomach acid, which can hamper their sleep.

Research indicates approximately 20% of U.S. adults are dealing with GERD. To alleviate this issue, people should avoid foods and beverages that can induce heartburn and reflux, such as

  • Chocolate
  • Spicy foods
  • Fatty foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Coffee

Furthermore, the Sleep Foundation indicates those who are overweight or obese face a higher risk of GERD than others. By maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, people can lower their risk of experiencing GERD symptoms.

2. Obesity

Obesity is a "common, serious, and costly disease," the CDC notes. It is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that puts a person's health in danger.

Being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of experiencing heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death globally. It can also contribute to diabetes, as well as blindness, limb amputations, and related conditions.

The Sleep Foundation states obesity can impact sleep quality and duration. People who overeat are prone to weight gain and face a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese than others. And, they are susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can cause breathing disruptions when they try to sleep.

Moreover, a lack of sleep can contribute to poor eating habits that lead to obesity. Poor sleep can cause a hormone imbalance that impacts a person's ability to regulate their appetite, the Sleep Foundation indicates. Without a good night's rest, an individual may experience a growth hormone deficiency and elevated cortisol levels, which can contribute to obesity.

Although obesity can be problematic, the condition is preventable. Maintaining a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods like nuts can help people guard against becoming overweight or obese. At the same time, avoiding excessive amounts of fatty foods and sugary beverages can help people keep their weight in check.

Don't forget to exercise regularly in combination with developing and maintaining a healthy diet. By exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, you can put yourself in a great position to look and feel your best and enjoy quality sleep night after night.

3. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease refers to an immune reaction after a person consumes gluten, a protein found in ryes, wheats, and barleys. For someone dealing with celiac disease, gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine. If this individual consumes products that contain gluten for an extended period, he or she is prone to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

Researchers have also found a correlation between celiac disease and sleep. Gluten intolerance can also cause hair loss and other comorbidities that occur on their own or in combination with low-quality sleep.

Avoidance of foods that contain gluten provides an excellent starting point to protect against celiac disease symptoms. Meanwhile, fruits, vegetables, and other gluten-free alternatives are available. Some restaurants even offer gluten-free menus for guests dealing with celiac disease.

Those who find celiac disease causes a wide range of symptoms may require additional medical assistance. For instance, someone coping with celiac disease and hair loss can meet with a dermatologist. Next, the dermatologist can evaluate all aspects of their patient's hair loss. He or she may then recommend certain foods to help their patient stimulate hair growth.

Much in the same vein, someone coping with celiac disease that hampers their sleep can consult with a sleep specialist. At this point, the specialist can perform a physical exam to determine if their patient is dealing with any underlying health conditions that affect their sleep. The specialist may also require a sleep habits review and sleep study to provide proper diagnosis and treatment.

4. Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance impacts a person's ability to digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. So, a person dealing with lactose intolerance can experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea after eating or drinking dairy products. 

There are three types of lactose intolerance:

  • Primary: Causes production of the lactase enzyme (which helps the body digest whole milk) to decline as a person gets older.
  • Secondary: Occurs due to a decrease in lactase production following an illness, injury, or surgery.
  • Congenital: Refers to lactose intolerance that begins at birth.

Regardless of why lactose intolerance occurs, the condition is treatable. Those who experience lactose intolerance generally limit their consumption of dairy products. They may also avoid consuming dairy products close to bedtime to minimize the risk of symptoms that can interrupt their sleep.

Explore Treatment Options for Food-Related Conditions That Affect Your Sleep

Everyone deserves a good night's sleep, even those who are dealing with food-related health conditions. If you or someone you know is coping with a food-related health condition that affects your sleep, seek out medical treatment. This allows you to receive expert support as you try to identify and treat the root cause of your condition.

A doctor can perform testing to assess your health and wellbeing. He or she can next offer insights into the best foods to eat before you go to bed. A doctor can also explain which foods you should avoid at all costs before bedtime.

The support a doctor provides won't end there, either. A doctor can provide ongoing assistance, so you can ensure a good night's sleep becomes a nightly occurrence. He or she can respond to any concerns and questions you may have as you receive treatment, too.

Don't wait to get help with a food-related health condition that affects your sleep. Get in touch with a doctor today, and you can take the first step toward treating your condition and improving your sleep quality and duration.

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Topics: Sleep Tips, food, sleep habits

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