5 Eating Mistakes that Are Messing With Your Sleep

Getting frustrated about restless sleep? Turns out, your diet could be the problem.

May 14, 2015

We've all been there: It's 4:34 a.m. and you're lying in bed, awake. As every minute ticks by on the digital clock next to you, you can't help but wonder why your body won't just let you drift back off to Dreamland. The truth? It may definitely have something to do with what you ate the day before. We reached out to Samantha Heller, MS RDN, senior clinical nutritionist at NYU’s Center for Musculoskeletal Care and author of The Only Cleanse, for her five common eating myths that may be messing with your sleep quality.
1. Myth: Eating late is a no-no
If you get home from work at 8:30 p.m. and have not had dinner you need to eat. Hunger pangs can disturb your sleep. Have a small meal that includes some protein and carbohydrate like a small serving of pasta primavera with edamame, salad with chickpeas, or small bowl of lentil-vegetable soup. If you have to eat later in the evening remember this: Eat light at night. 

More: 5 Reasons You Need More Sleep  


2. Myth: Having a cocktail in the evening to help you sleep
While alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly, it tends to cause multiple awakenings, disturbs deep REM sleep and make you sleepier and less alert the next day.  Save that glass of wine for weekends or special occasions.

3. Myth: Boost that late afternoon energy crash with caffeine
It seems universal that at 4:00 p.m. everyone’s energy crashes and we start foraging for chocolate and caffeine. That late afternoon energy drink or mega-latte can affect your ability to fall asleep that night. Caffeine’s effects in the body can last for up to 6 hours, long after you even remember quaffing the beverage. Instead of trotting to the coffee cart, trot around the block or up a few flights of stairs to boost your energy and mood.

4. Myth: Eating cookies and sodas helps banish sleepiness
When we are fatigued, we often grab sugary snacks and junk foods when what we really need is more sleep. If you are having difficulty sleeping because you are jet lagged or stressed, consider taking a sleep aid, such as Emergen-Zzzz, for occasional sleeplessness.  Emergen-Zzzz contains melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by your body when the sun goes down and darkness occurs. Asmelatonin levels rise in your blood, you begin to feel less alert and sleep becomes more inviting.

More: 5 Ways to Sleep Well & Lose Weight
5. Myth: Eating the same thing every day has no effect on sleep
Your brain needs a lot of nutrients to function at peak levels and the only way it gets these is from food. Research suggests that eating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, healthy fats, and protein sources can improve sleep. Small tweaks like using olive, walnut or grapeseed oils in cooking or consciously making a full one-half of your dinner your plate green, orange, yellow, red and purple vegetables can make a major difference.