‘Have you tried giving up coffee?’
Anyone with a tendency to toss and turn has undoubtedly heard this question.
What you eat and drink has a powerful impact on your body and can influence the quality of your sleep. Whether you’re knocking back a couple of cold ones or ordering a super spicy curry, what you put in your body will affect everything from your hormone production to internal temperature.
This week we’re uncovering how your favourite food and drinks affect your eight hours.
Caffeine is the miracle worker that puts a spring in your step in the morning. Unfortunately, it’s also the most commonly cited culprit for sleeplessness.
The bad news for latte lovers is that caffeine undoubtedly affects your sleep cycle and drinking too much will slam the brakes on your journey to the land of Nod.
The good news is that it might not be as severe as commonly cited.
A recent study revealed that consuming caffeine in the hours before bed can delay your internal clock by about 40 min. That’s enough to keep you perked up past bedtime but not enough to be the reason you might still be staring at the ceiling at 3am.
This delay is only about half as long as that caused by bright light (in other words, scrolling through your Facebook feed on your phone is worse than sipping on a flat white after work.)
Opinions vary on when to set the caffeine cut-off to stop it negatively affecting your sleep. As a general rule of thumb, avoid caffeine three hours before you plan to sleep and you should be fine.
If you encounter severe sleep problems, try switching coffee out completely with herbal (caffeine free) tea such as rooibos, chamomile, or peppermint.
Some natural pick me ups to replace your afternoon coffee:
● A short burst of exercise will get the blood pumping and can help you feel energised and refreshed. Try, a set of star jumps or a 30-second plank
● Try drinking a glass of water (dehydration can make us feel lethargic and distracted)
● Open the windows! Lack of fresh air will reduce your oxygen flow and leave you feeling tired
A few drinks might help you feel relaxed after a long day but, in reality, alcohol’s effect on your sleep cycle is far harsher than caffeine.
Drinking makes you feel drowsy and so has been recommended as a sleep aid for centuries, but it turns out that even though a ‘nightcap’ might help you nod off, in the long run alcohol will alter your sleep pattern, making it difficult to wake up refreshed.
To feel rested and restored from sleep, the average person will need to go through six to seven rapid eye movement (REM) cycles in the course of a night. A few drinks will encourage your body to go straight into deep sleep, skipping the first rapid eye movement (REM) stage, and reducing the total number of cycles to two.
To minimise the influence of alcohol on your sleep, stick to one or two drinks and make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Stop the press! (or at least stop putting mustard on your steak), it looks like spicy food can stop you sleeping.
The capsaicin compound regularly found in chilli and certain spices can both reduce the length of your slow wave stage of sleep and stop you from sleeping.
The reason? A slight rise in body temperature. A drop in your core body temperature signals to your body that night has fallen and triggers the production of conducive sleep hormone, melatonin.
When we eat spicy foods, this drop in body temperature is delayed and so it takes longer for our sleep hormones to kick in. You can reduce the effects of this by setting an early dinner time, allowing your body ample time to adjust its temperature back to normal.
In short, no more beers and burritos in bed and you’re set for a blissful night’s sleep.
Sweet dreams, Koalas.