Can’t Sleep? Your Diet May Not Be Helping.

What you eat and drink (or don't) before bedtime may make a difference.

Illustration by Paul Hostetler.


Melatonin gummies. Tart cherry juice. “Sleep-friendly” ice cream? A seemingly endless variety of remedies line our grocery-store shelves with the promise of helping our overworked, under-rested selves get a solid night’s sleep—a key to our overall health and well-being. But despite the recent flood of headlines about the importance of sleep (“Not All Sleep Is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain,” “Sleeping in on the Weekend Won’t Repay Your Sleep Debt,” “5 Reasons You Should Sleep With Your Dog”), many of us still need more.

Just two-thirds of Arlingtonians get at least seven hours of sleep per night, according to county health rankings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016 (the most recent data available).

Studies suggest the remaining third, who are chronically sleep-deprived, may be at greater risk for a host of health problems, from heart disease to depression. Yet in an area where busyness and workaholism are badges of honor, it can be mighty difficult to squeeze in those recommended z’s.

Avoiding screen time, listening to white noise and maintaining a consistent bedtime are oft-cited best practices for good sleep. But experts say we should also consider the food and drinks we consume in the hours before our heads hit the pillow.

Starting with booze. Can the sedative properties in a glass of merlot or a pint of IPA bring us a reliable and solid night of sleep? “[Alcohol] initially helps people as a little bit of a sleep aid, but then it metabolizes to a stimulant and causes more disruptive sleep,” cautions Lawrence Stein, medical director of the Virginia Hospital Center Sleep Lab. “Alcohol also worsens a lot of underlying sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and sleepwalking.”


Categories: Health & Fitness