Have you ever woken up feeling like you didn’t sleep a wink? Or worse, have you spent an entire night tossing and turning until you hear the buzz of your alarm the next morning?
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is a serious problem for many, and it can take a real toll on your health. Besides tanking energy levels, sleep loss can impair immune function, crush libido and ruin concentration. Studies also show that habitual sleep deprivation may also be associated with a higher risk of chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
There are several potential causes for sleep loss, including some that may be lurking in your fridge. The good news is that avoiding these foods can make sleeping easier—without the nasty side effects of sleeping pills.
Here are four foods you may want to nix from your diet to maximize your sleep.
Even though sipping a glass of wine or a beer may make you feel drowsy, drinking alcohol right before bed wreaks havoc on your sleep cycle. Studies show alcohol can disrupt rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the restorative phase of the sleep cycle that is essential to keeping energy levels elevated throughout the day. Alcohol may also suppress breathing and aggravate sleep apnea, further disrupting a good night’s rest.
These effects get worse the more you drink, so keep alcohol intake to a minimum before bedtime.
2.) High-Sugar Foods
It’s no secret that indulging in sweets and sugary treats can negatively impact your health, starting with your waistline. But did you know that they may also impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep? High-sugar foods like candy, cookies and soda cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels—and energy. They can also reduce the release of melatonin, a hormone that plays a central role in regulating your circadian rhythm.
Instead of filling up on empty carbs, opt for whole grains and fiber-rich fruits and veggies for a healthy bedtime snack.
3.) Spicy Foods
Although chili peppers may be perfect for adding a zip of flavor to your favorite dishes, they’re not so stellar when it comes to getting adequate sleep. Eating spicy foods right before bed can cause indigestion and discomfort, making getting shut-eye all but impossible. Research also suggests that capsaicin, a compound found in spicy foods, may increase body temperature, thereby interfering with sleep.
There’s no need to steer clear of spicy foods altogether, but it’s best to limit your intake a few hours before bed. Enjoy all the salsa and curry you want around lunchtime, but try to go easy on the spices later in the day.
4.) Greasy Foods
Aside from increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer, filling up on greasy, fried foods also makes it harder to sleep at night. Consuming high-fat foods could alter levels of orexin, a neurotransmitter involved in wakefulness and sleep. In fact, one 2016 study found that eating high amounts of saturated fat was associated with less restorative sleep and more sleep arousals throughout the night.
Skip the fried food and junk that contains next to no nutritional value and load up on healthy fats instead. Coconut oil, chia seeds and avocados are a few nutrient-rich options that can fit seamlessly into a well-rounded, sleep-promoting diet.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine.