If you’re tired all the time, don’t know how to slow down, or can’t sleep anymore, it might be because of your diet. We’ve compiled a list of the worst offenders below — common foods that are surprisingly robbing you of sleep and keeping you in a constant state of fatigue.
Read on to find out which foods disrupt your circadian rhythm and keep you tossing and turning at night. Please don’t say we didn’t warn you!
What is your circadian rhythm?
First things first: what does circadian rhythm refer to? Well, you’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that it has something to do with the cycle of… well, you guessed it — your day! Your circadian rhythm is basically the cycle of 24 hours that make up a day. As soon as the sun goes down and you find yourself in the dark, your body responds by shifting into “night mode.”
This means that your brain releases melatonin, the hormone responsible for causing drowsiness and inducing sleep. You might start yawning and feeling tired now, but that’s just because our bodies are programmed in a way so that we sleep when it’s dark outside.
The sun’s light, the rhythm of daily activities, and the time you go to bed all influence how your body responds to its environment. Because of this, your circadian cycle is a little different for everyone. Some people are “morning persons,” waking up early and feeling energized in the morning. Others are “night owls,” getting ready for bed late at night and waking up later as a result.
While some of this can depend on lifestyle factors, averages have helped researchers determine that most adults go to sleep between 10 p.m. and midnight. This means that your body is programmed to shut down at around the same time every night.
The circadian rhythm is completely independent of the 24-hour day/night cycle. That means that when you’re exposed to light, your body reacts by releasing melatonin. But this isn’t an immediate process; the exact timing of sleep depends on when your brain receives the message that it’s time for bed. According to researchers, this can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours — but most people get ready for sleep within about 1 hour of being exposed to light. Exposure to bright light can also help regulate a person’s circadian clock.
Foods To Avoid:
When consumed at night, alcohol disrupts the production of melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles), making it harder to fall asleep. It also interferes with sleep quality. And when you wake up in the morning, you may not feel refreshed as usual because it takes a while for your body to process alcohol and get rid of it from your bloodstream. Foods That Can Ruin Your Sleep [Foods to eat before bed]
You may think that coffee is just plain old caffeine. But caffeine also plays an important role in inducing you to sleep, so it’s worth mentioning. For people who are addicted to the stuff, this is real trouble because caffeine withdrawal can cause sleep disruptions. In fact, caffeine is one of the most common substances that keep you up at night — and it’s a problem because of how it leaves your body.
Your liver and kidneys break down caffeine into a phosphodiesterase (PDE) substance, which then acts as a natural neuromodulator. This means that it primes your central nervous system for alertness and arousal mode. You know those moments when you can’t stop thinking about a certain interesting topic, or when you feel like you have to write down a thought that just popped up in your head? That’s the same thing happening because of caffeine.
If you find yourself addicted to coffee, another common issue is waking up feeling tired despite drinking plenty of caffeine the night before. This can be due to effects on biological processes throughout the body, such as enhanced concentration in your brain. Also, the amount of caffeine from both coffee and tea varies greatly from one person to another — which means it may not do much for some people.
Food high in sugar
Sugar releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is actually designed to boost your mood. Your brain uses dopamine to help you concentrate, stay focused on a task, and feel motivated — so a temporary increase in dopamine levels can actually trigger alertness. But if you’re not getting enough shuteye, your brain might not be able to recuperate after the caffeine wears off and the sugar leaves your system.
When scientists in Japan conducted tests on mice without any sugar or glucose (a naturally occurring sugar found in foods like fruits and vegetables), they found that they slept more than usual. This is because insufficient glucose availability in the brain can induce a chemical called adenosine release, which causes sleepiness. Make sure to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose since they both contain high levels of chemicals that can cause anxiety and disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
Low-fat dairy products
A glass of milk before bedtime is a rare relic from an older generation (not just because they are using milk, but also because they’re eating at night). Studies suggest that low-fat dairy foods may not be beneficial for individuals seeking to improve their sleep habits. For one, it takes about 36 hours for your body to absorb the nutrients present in dairy products, so you might not notice any effects from this food for up to two days after eating it. Some studies have also found links between cheese consumption and an increased likelihood of sleep disturbances, including insomnia.
Even if you’re a fan of the stuff, chocolate is more than just food that makes you happy. It also contains chemicals that can have a serious effect on your sleep cycle. In general, these are called plant compounds (called polyphenols), and they are thought to interact with some of the neurotransmitters in your brain — particularly one called adenosine. Because of this, chocolate may actually cause more problems than benefits for people who are experiencing insomnia or other sleep disorders. The more cocoa it has in it, the better it will affect your sleep cycle.