Should you be more careful what you sip before bedtime?
You’ve probably heard me speak about unhealthy drinks before and, by now, you’re probably familiar with all of my usual suspects – alcohol, coffee, coco-cola etc. However, even these old infamous favourites can interrupt your sleep in unexpected ways and recently I was surprised to learn that many of the supposed healthy drinks we take for granted are also hiding some pretty suspicious secrets of their own!
1 – Flavoured water
The taste of plain regular water isn’t for everyone which is why there’s such an enormous market for flavoured waters and, while this demand is converting many away from the lure of fizzy drinks, are they really the healthier alternative that they make themselves out to be? And could your bottle of strawberry water secretly be upsetting your sleep patterns?
Well, unsurprisingly, fruity water doesn’t get its flavour from nowhere, these drinks rely on a cocktail of sugars and artificial sweetenrs to achieve their desired taste. In fact, leading brands such as Volvic, sometimes contain as much as 12.4g of sugar in their flavoured drinks – yikes! This is definitely not good news for your sleep. 1
As our nutritionist Emma Thornton has already discussed, sugar can definitely have an impact on your quality of sleep, disturbing your blood sugar levels which can pull you out of deep sleep – that phase which your body relies on to get all that vital repair work done! However, it isn’t just your quality of sleep you need to worry about – experts at the American Dental Association have also claimed that the citric and fruit acids used to flavour such drinks can also cause significant tooth erosion.
Our suggestion: Plain old water isn’t for everyone but switching to flavoured water might not be all that fruitful either. Don’t worry, though, there are still ways you can spice up your water. If you’re interested in trying out some recipes at home for yourself, I’d definitely suggest checking out our Detox Water, which is absolutely delicious and great for improving your digestion.
However, if you don’t have the patience to whip this recipe up every day, you could try investing in an infuser bottle so you can enrich your water with fresh fruity flavour. Just remember not to drink too much before bedtime!
2 – Alcohol
Yes, I know, alcohol hardly counts as a ‘surprising’ addition to this list and most of you reading this are probably more than aware of its health ramifications and won’t consider yourselves as chronic drinkers. Yet being a ‘chronic’ drinker doesn’t have to mean you’re out at the pub every night – in fact in recent years one disturbing trend has been making headlines.
Okay, so you’ve had a hectic day – you’ve had to juggle work and children and other family responsibilities but finally, the kids are in bed and you get an hour to yourself just to unwind. Surely one glass of wine won’t hurt? It might even help to dull those jangling nerves and help you nod off.
Except sometimes this occasional indulgence turns into a daily habit and that’s when the problems start. The odd glass every couple of weeks won’t drastically affect your health but if you’re drinking wine every day, then there will be consequences.
Alcohol not only makes you more prone to long-term insomnia and disrupted sleep, new research has also indicated that alcohol can have an unexpected impact on your circadian clock genes, affecting how messages are relayed to the brain. Studies have found that circadian clock genes are much less active in chronic drinkers, having enormous repercussions for your sleep patterns!3
Our suggestion: At the end of the day, it’s easy to feel exhausted, run down, and a little bit tense. However, building up a reward system where that glass of wine is your prize after a long day isn’t healthy and won’t help in the long run.
That’s why I’d look at other ways of unwinding in the evening – indulge in a long soak in a hot bath fragranced with soothing essential oils such as lavender, read that book you’ve been meaning to or even do practice some mindfulness activities to help slow down those frantic thoughts. If you really are craving a drink, why not try a herbal tea like Chamomile, which has been proven to relax the mind.
3 - Fresh fruit juices
Fresh fruit juice is good for you isn’t it? After all sometimes it even counts as 1 of your 5 a day and provides you with vitamins and minerals – so surely there’s no harm in having a cup of fresh orange juice in the evening?
Well, not so fast. Unless you’re squeezing that orange yourself, the chances are your so-called fresh juice isn’t really all that fresh and is probably loaded with artificial preservatives and sweeteners so it retains its flavour and shelf life.
The process for juicing fruits can sometimes remove fibre and it can also release all the sugar in the fruit, which is why so many fruit juices contain almost as much sugar as a can of Coca-Cola! This is important to note as the fibre in fruit can help to slow your absorption of fructose and without it, you can become vulnerable to a sugar crash and cravings.4
In other words, a glass of fresh fruit juice in the evening can be almost as damaging to your sleep as a can of fizzy cola!
Our suggestion: Not all fresh fruit juices are created equal, and while the usual suspects such as fresh orange or apple juice can negatively impact your sleep, tart cherry juice has shown some promise. In fact, studies have demonstrated that Montmorency Cherry Juice in particular may help to increase sleep time by up to 90 minutes in adults with insomnia! This is because tart Montmorency cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone!5
Now, this isn’t the sort of cherry juice you’re likely to find on your supermarket shelves so I’d recommend going to a natural healthfood store to source some tart cherry juice. We offer a selection of tart cherry juices but my favourite would have to be Optima’s Mortmorency Sour Cherry Juice which is made from high-quality Montmorency cherries which are packed with anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.
Only a 30ml serving is required and we would recommend trying it around 2 hours before your bedtime!
4 – Caffeine
Okay, so like alcohol, the idea that caffeine can interrupt your sleep is hardly mind-blowing stuff. Most of us are aware by now that it can upset the nervous system and set our nerves on edge, and go out of our way to avoid the stuff before bedtime. However, more and more research is being conducted about how caffeine can affect our sleep patterns, even if it’s consumed during the afternoon as opposed to early evening.
It takes approximately 6 hours for just 50% of the caffeine you’ve ingested to be removed from your body – the remaining 50% can linger for even longer in your system and, worse still, the type of medication you are on can affect how it is eliminated from your body.6 Antibiotics and birth control pills can slow down how the body breaks down caffeine – one study estimated that women on birth control pills held caffeine in their systems for an extra 4 hours!7
You also have to bear in mind that caffeine can be found in unexpected places and not just your cup of tea or coffee. Certain medicines like Paracetamol, dietary supplements like multivitamins and even decaf coffee sometimes contain caffeine but don’t always have to list it on the product’s labels. For example, one study analysed 20 dietary supplements and found that 6 of the supplements’ labels didn’t list the amount of caffeine in the product, which sometimes amounted to twice the amount found in your average cup of coffee!8
Our suggestion: I’m not saying you have to ditch coffee completely, but I would perhaps consider limiting your intake to just that morning cuppa. Try not to have any after lunchtime and instead, focus on other energising options. Herbal teas can be a surprisingly stimulating alternative to coffee, or you could try our caffeine-free coffee substitute Bambu.
5 – Water
Water? Surely drinking plain old water before bed can’t cause any harm to your sleep pattern? Well, unfortunately, many of us having developed a bad habit of not drinking enough during the day and then we try to compensate when we’re home at night. Chugging all this water at night, in the hours leading up to bedtime, will inevitably have repercussions for our sleep – yes, you will wake up needing to visit the toilet during the night!
However, this doesn’t mean you should neglect your water intake entirely, but rather reconsider when you’re doing the majority of your drinking. The daily recommendation is around 1.5L spaced out during the day and, if you’re not drinking enough, dehydration can be just as devastating as drinking too much.
Not only will it increase your stress levels, dehydration can also make you feel more tired and lower your concentration, sometimes resulting in headaches and even affecting your perception of pain!
Our suggestion: As I’ve already mentioned, your water intake should be spaced out evenly throughout the day. If you sometimes struggle to remember, I would invest in a good bottle and sit it somewhere on your desk within your field of vision so you have an obvious reminder.
Aim to drink one glass in the morning before you leave for work and then drink the contents of your bottle at work, another glass when you get home and finally your last around an hour after dinner. This should keep you hydrated through the day and make sure you avoid too many toilet trips during the night!
6 - Fizzy drinks
Fizzy drinks, another supposedly obvious contender but most people forget that fizzy drinks can also incorporate carbonated water! Aside from their sky high sugar content, most fizzy drinks are also loaded with caffeine and worse yet, might be fuelling your cravings for all things sweet and sugary.
This is because the carbon dioxide present in fizzy drinks can stimulate the release of ghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach that is sometimes known as the ‘hunger hormone’ as it promotes fat storage and can increase your appetite.
This increase in appetite can drive you to consume more refined carbohydrates and sugary foods which can then impact your sleep, forming a vicious cycle.
Our suggestion: There’s nothing wrong with having fizzy drinks as the occasional treat but, if you’re having them on a regular basis, it can become a problem. If you’re craving something sweet, a can of Coca-Cola isn’t the best response – instead, try to gratify your hunger pangs in a more meaningful way by giving them what they really want – proper food.
We have put together this bundle just for you to use whenever a bad night’s sleep strikes! Including a selection of soothing herbal remedies and natural supplements, you can rest easy knowing that all care has been taken to ensure you get a good night’s sleep!
2Huang M-C et al. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2010; 34 (11): 1899-904