How to sleep: Avoid this food before bed to get a good night’s sleep

Sleep loss can be chalked up to a range of causes, such as taking work home and invasive technologies, both of which are symptoms of living in the modern age.

Up against these obstacles, it is easy to become despondent because it is hard to change the status quo.

Luckily, you can aid sleep loss without having to rally against the times because making modest changes to your lifestyle can have a positive effect too.


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Tweaking your diet is a simple and effective way to aid sleep loss and it can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.

Certain dietary decisions have been shown to disrupt the sleep-cycle so shunning them before bed can help promote a good night’s sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), complex carbs are one of the worst culprits for sleep loss.

“Skip the white bread, refined pasta, and sugary, baked goods, which may reduce serotonin levels and impair sleep,” advises the NSF.

Serotonin is a brain chemical and low levels of it can contribute to insomnia, explains the health body.

In fact, evidence suggests the extent to which eating refined carbs can trigger insomnia.

Refined carbohydrates are forms of sugars and starches that do not come from natural whole foods, but have been manufactured and refined in some way.

According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, postmenopausal women who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates – particularly added sugars – were more likely to develop insomnia.

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Conversely, women whose diet included higher amounts of vegetables, fibre, and whole fruit (not juice) were less likely to develop problems with insomnia.

To gather the findings, James Gangwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and his team gathered data from more than 50,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative who had completed food diaries.

The researchers looked at whether women with higher dietary glycemic index were more likely to develop insomnia.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.


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Highly refined carbohydrates – such as added sugars, white bread, white rice, and soda – have a higher glycemic index, and cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar.

The researchers found that the higher the dietary glycemic index – particularly when fuelled by the consumption of added sugars and processed grains – the greater the risk of developing insomnia.

The researchers hypothesised that the rapid spikes and troughs in blood sugar after eating refined carbs may trigger insomnia.

“When blood sugar is raised quickly, your body reacts by releasing insulin, and the resulting drop in blood sugar can lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can interfere with sleep,” Gangwisch said.

They also discovered that women who consumed more vegetables and whole fruits (not juices), which generally rank lower on the GI index, were less likely to develop insomnia.

As Gangwisch explained: ”Whole fruits contain sugar, but the fibre in them slow the rate of absorption to help prevent spikes in blood sugar.”

He added: ”This suggests that the dietary culprit triggering the women’s insomnia was the highly processed foods that contain larger amounts of refined sugars that aren’t found naturally in food.”

Since most people, not just postmenopausal women, experience a rapid rise in blood sugar after eating refined carbohydrates, the authors suspect that these findings would be consistent if tested in a broader population.

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