Throughout the day we eat a wide variety of food and drink all kinds of beverages. Many of us though are blind to the subtle effect many of these substances can have, from the stimulants to amino acids they can have a pretty profound effect on our minds causing you to stay up later than you should or disturb your circadian rhythm.
In this post we are going to look over a few of the biggest offenders, some obvious and others less so. Either way if you are having trouble getting a restful nights rest then it is worth taking a look…..
The Sleep Offenders
Caffeine - This is not strictly limited to coffee but also includes Black and Green Tea as well as more exotic drinks like Yerba Mate and Guarana based drinks. All of these contain some level of caffeine and have a different effect. The tea’s tend to be more subtle with their kick and therefore better tolerated, whereas coffee has more of a direct mind stimulating effect that can last for hours.
Some of us who are sensitive to coffee can have pretty messed up sleep simply from having one coffee in the morning, for others avoiding it after lunch is fine to get restful sleep. In my opinion we are all best served by using the old Italian rule of “No coffee after Lunch”. If you are especially sensitive to caffeine even things like green tea can have a profound mind stimulating effect and can keep you up.
I know a host of people who have encountered anxiety, nervousness and sleep problems which have been solved by simply cutting out their regular coffee. Sometimes we don’t realise the effect something can be having on us until we stop. If you are having trouble sleeping or winding down at night then caffeine is definitely the first place to look.
Cheese - We have all heard the stories about cheese and nightmares, well it seems that there is some truth behind all of this. Some cheeses especially those that are aged like Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino and many others have a high level of an amino acid called “tyramine” which is known to have a mentally stimulating effect.
The origins of the cheese gives you nightmares’ myth are inconclusive. Some believe that it may have originated from Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, who blamed “a crumb of cheese” on his night-time visitations.
The restless sleep from eating cheese before bed could also be accounted towards to high B6 content found in most cheeses especially the smellier varieties like Stilton. Either way it is probably best to avoid large servings of cheese if you want restful sleep……
Chocolate - Some people recommend a small piece of dark chocolate before sleeping die to the high magnesium content which will supposedly relax you. This is total hogwash as chocolate contains tiny amounts of magnesium and a cocktail of pretty potent stimulants and amino acids one of which is Tyrosine which are converted into dopamine and can have a stimulating effect. Although I am not a huge fan of chocolate when I do eat it I make sure it is well before sleeping. So if you want restful sleep be wary of any chocolate products before bed which can have large volumes of cocoa.
Processed Meats - Another common offender, especially as many people use processed meats as a quick and easy protein fix for dinner. These contain pretty high levels of Tyramine which make us feel alert, either way these meats are full of salt and are usually of a low quality therefore best avoided in general. Especially around bed time…….
Alcohol - Although a few drinks can relax us and make us feel initially sleepy the long term effect is very different. Most will find that a glass of wine or beer with a meal will have little effect on sleep and if anything promote relaxation. Whereas even a small amount of alcohol on its own can interrupt deep sleep. You will probably fall to sleep fine after a few drinks but the quality of sleep will be pretty low leaving you waking up feeling unrested and “hungover”…..
Valerian – This is a herb that is in many sleeping products and sleepy-time tea’s. And although it is a sedative and relaxant for some of us it can have the opposite effect causing restlessness and anxiety. If you are drinking a sleep aid tea in the evening that contains valerian and having trouble going to sleep then this could be the culprit. I have come across several people who have had an adverse effect to valerian including myself. That being said for some it does indeed work as a sedative and promotes peaceful sleep, so if it is working for you then stick to it……
If you are having trouble sleeping it is well worth avoiding these common offenders,You may not even notice you are consuming them and although the effect maybe mild during the day they can come back to haunt you later with sleepless nights.