Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Your Dietary Choices Affect Your Sleep

Posted by Paisley Hansen on Jun 25, 2021 1:34:00 AM

Prepared lunch consisting of various ingredients

You already know how important it is to eat healthily to keep your body strong and in good shape. You also know that you need to get a decent night of sleep to function at your best. However, did you ever stop to think about how your diet may be impacting your sleep habits?

If you have been struggling to get good quality rest or to stay asleep throughout the night, or if you have noticed unpleasant symptoms like anxiety, stomach upset, or a racing heart, then it may be time to look at your diet.

What you eat and when you eat it can have a profound impact on the quality and length of the sleep that you get. While everyone has a restless night on occasion, if it begins to happen frequently, consider keeping a food diary to identify any potential problem areas. Once you know what the culprit could be, you can change your food habits and start sleeping like a baby again. Here are some common triggers that may be playing a part in your poor sleep.

Carb and Sugar Content Matters

Carbohydrates are a tricky subject when it comes to dietary opinions. They are a staple in the daily food choices of many people but have been discovered to be an unhealthy choice. Simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta, cakes, and cookies have little nutritional value. The high carbohydrate and sugar content in these foods does more harm than good. 

Eating a meal high in carbs and sugar can cause hormone imbalances and spikes in your blood sugar levels. This leads to a rollercoaster of energy surges and crashes. It can also increase anxiety and cause you to feel unsteady. The constant ups and downs in your energy can make you feel the need to nap after a big meal or experience a second wind right when you are trying to wind down for the night. Too many carbs can even interrupt your sleep and cause frequent awakenings during the night. Because of this pattern, you might want to save that delicious poutine for a daytime indulgence, instead of a midnight snack.

Timing Is Everything

The types of foods that you choose to eat are very important for your health and the way you feel each day, but the timing of your meals can have an impact as well. Eating a big, heavy meal can make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable. If you are particularly sensitive to mealtimes, you may want to adjust your schedule to consume your largest meal during the midday hours and eat a lighter dinner.

It's easier to digest a meal when you are more active, and most people tend to relax in the evenings after dinner. Going to bed when you are overly full will make it hard to relax and fall asleep. You may also experience heartburn and other discomforts that keep you awake. 

Nightshades Could Be a Nightmare

Another big cause of anxiety and restlessness that can cut into your nighttime rest is the consumption of nightshades. These are vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. These foods contain substances that are considered toxic and can affect those who may experience a heightened nervous system.

Since they affect people differently, you can try to eliminate them from your diet for a while to see if helps. If you notice an improvement in your anxiety levels and other symptoms, then you may want to avoid nightshades in the future. Over time, you will learn how to adjust the type of diet that you regularly consume to suit your individual needs. This is especially important to do if you are already prone to anxiety. 

High Histamine Foods Raise Adrenaline

When you think of the word histamine, you likely call to mind thoughts of allergies brought on by being outside and exposed to pollen and other irritants. However, there are many foods that are high in histamine and may be causing the immune response of inflammation and discomfort that you are experiencing.

Foods that are high in histamine range from healthy options such as spinach to processed foods. If you are sensitive to histamine, you may experience a rapid heartbeat, anxiety, and other unpleasant effects after you eat them. A racing heart and heightened anxiety is not a state that allows you to get any sleep, let alone a restful night.

If you believe that you may have histamine intolerance, talk to your doctor. You can also start to record the foods that you eat and note any symptoms that you experience afterward. This is a good way to help you realize that the spinach salads you eat each day for lunch may be causing your elevated heart rate and discomfort. 

Address Underlying Conditions

It's a known fact that certain foods can contribute to illness or disease if consumed in high enough amounts. Even if you aren't concerned with your slight elevation in blood pressure or increased cholesterol, these conditions could be affecting your sleep patterns. This is all the more reason to take action to eliminate the symptoms by addressing the root of the problem. Dietary changes can reverse a lot of health conditions, and in doing so, you will have the automatic benefit of better quality rest each night. 

Good sleep will keep you energized and able to greet each day with enthusiasm instead of dread. Being constantly tired can start to affect your work quality and even your personal relationships. To make matters even more complex, when you don't get sufficient sleep, your body can start to suffer symptoms. During sleep is when healing and repair take place to recover from exercise, illness, and the day-to-day strain of living. When you aren't getting enough deep, recuperative sleep, your body doesn't get the chance to do this healing and can start to experience other problems. 

Lack of sleep can even lead to or exacerbate weight gain, stress, and other health problems. So you can see why it is so important to address any issues that arise as soon as possible. If left to continue, your unhealthy food choices and lack of sleep will be locked in a cycle that continues to make your symptoms and discomfort worse.

Fortunately, you can correct these problems and get yourself back on track to feeling rested and full of energy by avoiding known trigger foods and discovering which foods you have a sensitivity to. It may take some time to identify all of the problem areas and adapt to a new way of eating, but the improvement in how you feel will be more than worth any initial effort. 

If you're following these eating tips and other sleep hygiene practices, but still find yourself having trouble sleeping at night, there's a chance that you could be suffering from a sleep disorder. If you're regularly having sleep troubles you might want to consult with your primary care physician or contact a sleep center to get to the root of the problem. And if you live in Alaska and want help from the best sleep experts in the state, click on the link below for a free 10-minute phone consultation, and we can help get you started down the road to better sleep.

Finally - Sleep Consultation


Topics: Sleep Tips, food, diet

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