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How Your Summer BBQ Menu Could be Destroying Your Sleep

Summer brings all good things -- sun, sand, and great eats! What’s better than firing up the grill, having a few beers, and then finishing it off with your favorite ice cream? While it's well-known that alcohol intake can drastically affect your sleep, the effect of eating red meat and sweets on sleep disruption is less recognized. Read on to learn more.

Alcohol & Sleep

It’s a fact that alcohol causes drowsiness with 20 percent of Americans reporting using alcohol to help them fall asleep (National Sleep Foundation).

You may fall asleep quickly after drinking, but it’s common to wake up in the middle of the night. Studies show that alcohol may affect the normal production of chemicals in the body that trigger sleepiness when you’ve been awake for a substantial amount of time, and subside once you’ve had enough sleep. After drinking, the production of adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain increases, allowing for a fast onset of sleep. It subsides as quickly as it comes, making you more likely to wake up before you’re rested.

Another reason people get lower quality sleep following alcohol consumption is that it blocks REM sleep, the most restorative type of sleep. With less REM sleep, you are likely to wake up feeling groggy.

Alcohol also causes your whole body to relax, including the muscles of your throat. And that makes you more prone to snoring.

Red Meat & Sleep

Red meat contains tyrosine, which stimulates the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that counteracts the hormones produced during restorative sleep. Additionally, the high protein content of red meat slows digestion and may make it difficult to sleep as your body is working to break down the protein while you are trying to fall asleep. High-protein diets have also been linked to sleep apnea (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders).

Red meat is high in iron and zinc, both of which are necessary in a healthy diet, so try eating red meat earlier in the day to derive its nutritional benefits without sacrificing your sleep quality.

Ice Cream & Sleep

While sweet and refreshing on a summer evening, ice cream is loaded with fat. Indulging in high-fat dairy foods could interfere with your sleep, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Low-fiber, high-fat, and high-sugar diets were found to be associated with sleep arousal.

Also, if you consume ice cream and do not give your body a proper chance to burn it off before bed via light exercise, all of the sugar will fill you with energy right before you hit the hay. You’re sending your body mixed messages! Consider a non-dairy yogurt or fruit-based dessert instead. Summer is the perfect time for fresh fruit crisps and sorbets