Could These Foods Be Keeping You Awakes at Night?

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  • By Robin Westen

    Are you finding it tough to fall asleep? Or do you wake in the middle of the night and then toss and turn? Dietitians say you can bump up your zzz’s just by changing what you eat or drink. Here are the biggest nocturnal no no’s.

    Aged Cheeses

    The high level of the amino acid tyramine found in some cheeses is a sleep killer. Steer clear of Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, and other hard cheeses at least six hours before you’re tucking in for the night.
  • Caffeine Probably nothing new here. But this stimulant stays in your body for at least eight hours. If you really want to be sure caffeine (and that includes caffeinated sodas and milk chocolate) isn’t affecting your good night’s sleep, make noon your cutoff point.
  • Hot, Spicy Foods Whatever ends up giving you heartburn, whether it’s spicy chicken wings, hot sauce on your burrito, or peppers on your pizza, it’s destined to keep you awake at night. And when you recline you bump up the chance of getting an attack of heartburn. It’s the double wake-up whammy.
  • Processed or Smoked Meats Processed meats also contain high levels of tyramine and trigger the brain to release a chemical that makes us feel alert. FYI: These meats contain other health hazards as well, such as increasing your cancer and heart disease risk.
  • Alcohol Yes, that glass of wine can make you feel sleepy, but after you doze off it could wake you throughout the night. That’s because alcohol prevents you from entering the deep stages of sleep.
  • Ginseng Tea Some herbal teas like chamomile can calm your nerves and help you sleep, but don’t sip ginseng at night. It's been shown to act as a stimulant, and though some tea drinkers don't feel any effects from the tea, others experience insomnia and hypertension.

    Robin Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."