get more sleep

Is Your Diet Keeping You Awake?

Too much fat

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or if you wake up a lot in the night, your diet could be to blame. What you eat or drink before bed, or even earlier in the day, can affect the amount and quality of your sleep. Here’s what to watch out for.

Fat and Protein
Meals high in fat and/or protein take time to digest and your stomach has to work hard to break those nutrients down. All that digestion activity can keep you from falling asleep. Fatty meals can also give you indigestion, which can bar you from dreamland.

Acidic Foods
Eating acidic juices, citrus fruit or even tomato-based sauces before bed gives some people heartburn. The sensation may start as soon as you lie down or it might wake you up an hour after you go to bed. If heartburn is a problem, avoid eating acidic foods within several hours of bedtime.

Caffeine and Alcohol
You know that caffeine keeps you awake but you may not realize that the coffee you drank as early as 2 or 3 pm is causing insomnia. People assume that caffeine only affects you if it’s consumed an hour or two before bedtime but caffeine can remain active in your body for up to 8 hours.

Even if have no problem falling asleep after drinking caffeinated drinks, the stimulant may be disrupting your sleep without you even knowing it. It can prevent you from getting the deep, restorative sleep your body needs. The same is true for alcohol. That glass of wine at dinner may leave you feeling relaxed and sleepy, but alcohol disrupts deep sleep, leaving you tired the next day.

Other Causes
If you’re not sure if your diet is keeping you up, keep a food and sleep diary for a few days or weeks. Note when and what you eat during the day, along with any sleep difficulties. This can help you pinpoint what’s keeping you up at night. Or you may find that it’s not diet-related, in which case you should see your doctor to rule out a sleep disorder or other sleep issues.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.


Tiffany, Week 16: My Sleep Apnea Is Gone!

tiffany

Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep is more complicated than turning off the TV and giving up caffeine after 2 p.m. My problems with sleep go back many years. I had sleep apnea and had to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Basically, you put on a mask connected to the machine it increases the air pressure in your throat so the passageway doesn’t collapse when you’re asleep. Then, two years ago, I had my tonsils removed and I stopped using it. Felt better but never 100%.

Before this sleep challenge, I did a sleep study because I knew with weight loss, working out, eating the right foods, etc. I should feel less tired. I’m happy to report that my sleep apnea is GONE, that I hardly snore at all and I don’t have any episodes where I stop breathing.

I also found out that a medicine I’ve been taking in the morning really should be taken at night because it can cause drowsiness. Now with me taking my medicine at the right time of the day and getting at least 7 hours of sleep, I truly feel like a new person!

If you feel like your sleep issues are more complicated than quick fixes, definitely talk to your doctor. It can make a world of difference.

Have you ever seen an M.D. for sleep troubles? Post a comment and tell me!


6 Ways To Wind Down For Bed

Popcorn

As nutritionist for the Avagliano family, I know their days inside and out. They’re incredibly busy and getting everything they need to tackle done in a day can be challenging. But they’ve been working hard this month on getting to bed at a decent hour. Part of slipping between the sheets at a decent hour is the prep work you do to de-stress after a long day. Here, some tips we can all use to decompress before heading to sleep.

  • Drink a warm soothing cup of milk or herbal tea and sit around the family room and discuss the day.
  • Prepare a light snack such as peanut butter, whole grain bread and skim milk; a slice of cheese and an apple; a cup of warm soup or yogurt with fruit and relax with a fun card game or puzzle.
  • Walk around the block or spend time with the kids and your pets.
  • Take a bubble bath, light a candle and listen to your favorite music.
  • Turn off your phone, computer, and TV. Pop some high fiber popcorn, using whole kernels, and read a novel, magazine or newspaper.
  • Prepare lunch for the next day—so you’re all set for a healthy day.

Registered dietician Elizabeth Fassberg runs Eat Food, a New York City-based company that designs and delivers custom food and nutrition programs for businesses, organizations and individuals. She’s coaching the Avagliano family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.


Challenge Yourself: Help Your Teens Sleep Better

Teens need nine hours of sleep to be well-rested and focus during the day.

Tiffany and Peggy have shared not only their struggles to catch more zzzs, but their kids’, as well. If you’re having a hard time getting your kid to hit the hay at a decent hour, check out our story, “4 Solutions to Teen Sleep Problems.” It’s filled with expert tips on getting them to do so, plus important reasons why they need at more than nine hours of sleep a night.

Have you been able to get your teens to stop burning the midnight oil? Share your tactics in the comments below.


6 Perfect Bedtime Snacks

 

Maple-Walnut Oatmeal

You always hear that you shouldn’t eat before bedtime. But if you have trouble getting to sleep, a little snack can help. This is especially true if you’re hungry since an empty stomach can keep you awake.

What foods are best before bed? Small amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods. They’re easy to digest and raise your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that helps calm the brain so you can sleep. Complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • a piece of fruit or
  • some whole wheat crackers

are best because they are digested slowly. Avoid candy, cookies and other high sugar, simple carbs. These types of foods are quickly digested, releasing a jolt of sugar into your blood that can keep you awake.

Foods with tryptophan, an amino acid, are also a good choice. Tryptophan is used to make serotonin, which can then make melatonin, the hormone that tells your body to go to sleep. Most protein-containing foods have tryptophan but that doesn’t mean you should eat a steak before bed. A small amount of protein is all you need. And it’s best if that protein is combined with a little carbohydrate. Consider:

  • Milk. It contains both nutrients, which explains the old “warm milk before bed” advice.
  • Half a packet of instant oatmeal
  • Some cottage cheese
  • A slice of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter.

Whatever food you choose, keep the portion small. Too much of any type of food can interfere with sleep.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.