Millions of Brits are feeling sleep deprived, and our love of curry and coffee are to blame.
Experts say a late-night diet rich in spicy dishes, caffeine and high-protein foods are keeping us awake at night.
A study, commissioned by Simba Sleep, revealed that one in five Brits think spicy foods like curry will help them to get a good night’s rest.
Over one in ten turn to coffee for a pre-bed caffeine boost, while almost half regularly have an alcoholic drink.
Sammy Margo, sleep expert and author of The Good Sleep Guide, said: “Although many of us understand the importance of nutrition during the day, the latest research from Simba Sleep clearly shows few of us are aware that certain foods can help to promote a more restful sleep.
“While particular foods and drinks may feel warming, those that are spicy, caffeinated, or high in fat and protein can play havoc with our sleep.”
“Lying down after eating a spice-laden meal can result in heartburn and a restless night. Fatty foods high in protein, like steak, digest slowly and may disturb our Circadian rhythm. Plus, whilst a nightcap can make you feel drowsy, excessive alcohol prevents you from getting into the deeper stages of sleep, and may make you feel groggy the next day.”
This onslaught of sugar and stimulants mean that the average adult manages just 6 hours and 28 minutes of shut-eye a night, and misses out on 6 hours and 10 minutes of sleep each week.
One respondent found that half a jar of pickled onions before bed was just what he needed to send him off to sleep, while another awoke one night to find that she had been snacking on cola cubes while she slept.
Turbulent thoughts are the most common cause of a sleepless night, with 53 per cent of Brits unable to stop their mind racing when the lights go out, and a quarter are kept up by soaring stress levels.
Over a quarter of those who said they often feel deprived of sleep have had a bad dream that they attribute to something they ate or drank that day, compared to seven per cent of those who often feel well-rested.
Sammy Margo added: “It is interesting that respondents are citing a number of different areas for their sleep discomforts, from physical issues to the psychological. What we choose to eat most certainly has a physiological effect on us and this should be considered if you suffer from poor sleep health.
“Nutritional deficiencies can cause a poor night’s rest. Night-time leg cramps often occur due to a magnesium deficiency, while a deficiency in calcium, which helps to calm the nervous system, may cause you to wake more frequently during the night.”
Just 11 per cent of Brits have tried modifying their diet to see how it improves their quality of sleep. Of those actively attempting to improve their sleep health through diet, a calming cup of chamomile tea is their sleep aid of choice, followed by a glass of hot milk or some wine.
James Cox, co-founder of high-tech mattress firm Simba Sleep, who commissioned the study, said: “There is a delicate balancing act between a number of factors that could mean the difference between a restful and a restless night’s sleep. In fact, as our research shows, there is a disconnect between what we should and shouldn’t eat before we go to bed each night.
“In addition to selecting the right mattress, eating the right foods is essential in the science of getting the perfect night’s sleep. With the right approach to nutrition, lifestyle and comfort, sleep-deprived Brits can achieve a much needed long and enjoyable night’s rest.”
SAMMY MARGO TIPS: SIX OF THE WORST FOOD & DRINK BEFORE BED
1. Spicy Foods – Spicy foods can give you indigestion and it is speculated that capsaicin, an active ingredient in chili peppers, may affect sleep via changes in body temperature.
2. Alcohol – A nightcap can make you feel drowsy, however drinking more alcohol prevents you from getting into the deeper stages of sleep and can lead to grogginess the next day.
3. Coffee – One of the most common sources of caffeine, the stimulant has a half-life of five hours, which means 25 per cent of it is still working through your system even 10 hours later.
4. Greasy or Fatty Foods – Greasy foods cause your stomach to go into overdrive to digest them, producing acid in the stomach which can spill up into your oesophagus, causing sleep-disrupting heartburn. Burgers, fast food, ice cream, or super cheesy foods should be avoided before bed.
5. Cheeses/Foods high in Tyramine – Hard cheeses and processed meats contain higher levels of the amino acid tyramine which causes the brain to release a chemical that makes us feel alert.
SAMMY MARGO TIPS: FIVE OF THE BEST FOOD & DRINK BEFORE BED
1. Bananas – Bananas are rich in magnesium, a muscle relaxant, as well as sleep-promoting hormones serotonin and melatonin.
2. Almonds – Almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium, which both help to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while also steadying your heart rhythm.
3. Honey – A teaspoon of honey contains glucose, which tells your brain to shut off orexin, the chemical known to trigger alertness.
4. Oats – Grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production and raise your blood sugar naturally. Oats are also rich in melatonin.
5. Turkey – The post-Christmas lunch nap is no coincidence – turkey is packed with sleep-inducing tryptophan
FOODS BRITS BELIEVE IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY
2. Cheese and crackers
3. Hard cheeses
5. Chocolate digestives
7. A sweet dessert
9. Walnuts/Almonds/other nuts
12. Dark chocolate
15. Milk/white chocolate
MOST POPULAR PRE-BEDTIME SNACKS
1. Biscuits, (i.e. digestive, hobnob, pretzels)
4. Milk/white chocolate
5. Cheese and crackers
6. A piece of fruit
9. Walnuts/Almonds/other nuts
10. Dark chocolate