How to sleep: The two foods to avoid at dinner or risk sleeplessness – the worst culprits

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Difficulty falling asleep is an issue millions of Britons have to contend with daily, and it has a number of known causes. Studies have shown that the nutritional quality of the foods you consume throughout the day make a marked difference to sleep. Two widely consumed foods should be avoided at dinner in order to facilitate drifting off to sleep.

According to Harvard Health, eating spicy and greasy food before bed could be two culprits behind sleep disruptions.

Spicy foods have been shown to aggravate the lining of the stomach, causing indigestion and discomfort.

One line of evidence has shown that the capsaicin concentration of spicy foods may increase body temperature, which is known to interfere with sleep.

Some studies have also suggested that spicy food may cause sleep disruption by triggering nightmares.

READ MORE: How to sleep: The ‘military method’ to nod off within two minutes or less

An entry on the Harvard Health blog warns: “Spicy foods can contribute to painful heartburn.”

The health body also points out that although large meals induce sleepiness, this should not be misinterpreted as an aid to better sleep.

“Big meals can leave you feeling uncomfortably full and over time can contribute to obesity – a well-known risk factor for sleep apnea,” it adds.

Instead, it advises to “eat dinner at least a couple of hours before bedtime and keep the meal light”.

“Avoid spicy, fatty foods as well as alcohol and caffeine.

“Also don’t drink too many fluids before bed. Having to constantly get up to go to the bathroom can disrupt your sleep too.”

Eating greasy foods may be just as detrimental to sleep, as dietary fats take a long time to digest.

Since fatty foods are slower to digest than protein and carbohydrates, the digestive system will still be working hard by the time you try to doze off.

Richard Shane, the creator of the Sleep Easily Method, said: “You don’t want the engine of the digestive system cranking away when the rest of the body is trying to sleep.”

Interestingly, a line of research has shown that resisting such foods can be particularly difficult for sleep-deprived individuals.

In fact, mounting evidence shows that sleep deprivation leads to extra calorie consumption and weight gain.

One study presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco suggested that this is likely to be down to an increase in sensitivity to food smells in the brain following sleep deprivation.

The study showed that participants who sleep only four hours show greater brain activity in response to food smells, compared to when they’d slept a full eight hours.

The study co-author told Science News: “When tired, participants showed greater brain activity in two areas involved in olfaction – the piriform cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex – in response to food smells than they did when well-rested.

“That spike wasn’t seen in response to non-food odours.”

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