How food and drink affects sleep
If you've noticed you feel particularly sleepy or energised after eating or drinking certain things, that's because what you consume can have an impact on how well you sleep and how awake you are during the day.
Cabrohydrates and proteins
Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pastas and breads with high GIs, can make you sleepy. They work well with proteins to induce sleepiness, which makes combinations such as peanut butter on toast, cereal with milk, or cheese and crackers good bedtime snacks. A large meal can make you tired, too, especially one with a lot of carbohydrates. However, avoid eating too much protein before bedtime. Protein-rich foods also contain tyrosine, an amino acid that stimulates brain activity.
Milk, cheese, yoghurt etc are good sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to melatonin and serotonin — both thought to induce sleep. It’s hard to find any real proof that cheese disrupts sleep by giving you nightmares…
Oats, bananas, poultry and peanuts
These foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that induces sleep. High-carbohydrate, low-protein snacks are also thought to increase levels of tryptophan.
These foods can lead to heart burn, which can keep you awake at night. Some people are more prone to this than others.
Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks hormones in the brain that make you sleepy. Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate (including hot chocolate drinks), remain in the body from 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you don’t think caffeine affects you, it may be disrupting and changing the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed can help improve sleep quality.
Alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep in the short term but, over the course of the night, it inhibits the sleep process and can prevent you from getting deep, restful sleep.
To help you sleep:
- Small bowl of oatmeal or cereal with low-fat milk.
- Yoghurt with oats sprinkled on top.
- Crackers with peanut butter, slice of cheese or turkey.
- Apple with a small slice of cheese.
To avoid before bedtime:
- Spicy foods, especially if you're prone to heartburn.
- Too much liquid (makes you wake often to go to the loo!).
If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, on a regular or frequent basis, see your doctor to find out what might be the cause and how to get help.