This food could be what's triggering your sleep problems according to new research

Are you finding it hard to sleep?

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If your diet contains lots of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice, you might find it harder to drift off.

Scientists from Columbia University, New York, looked at the food diaries of over 50,000 post-menopausal women. They discovered that refined carbohydrates could be having an impact on sleep quality.

It turned out that those whose diets had a higher glycemic index (GI) were more likely to find it harder to get to sleep.

The reason for this is that carbohydrate-rich foods like white bread, pasta and rice produces a high amount of GI, and it causes sugar spikes.

refined carbohydrates

Study author Dr James Gangwisch said, “When blood sugar is raised quickly, your body reacts by releasing insulin, and the resulting drop in blood sugar can lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can interfere with sleep.”

According to Bupa, insomnia affects a third of people in the UK. This can be caused by environmental habits, lifestyle, temporary stress such as loss of a job or finances, and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

But diet could also have an impact on your sleep, according to this study. Other known dietary triggers are alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals.

Results published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that a higher consumption of refined carbohydrates with a high GI raises the risk of insomnia.

refined carbohydrates

Added sugars and processed grains were also found to be particularly responsible, whereas vegetables and whole fruits (not juice) reduced the risk.

Dr Gangwisch added, “Whole fruits contain sugar, but the fibre in them slows the rate of absorption to help prevent spikes in blood sugar.

“This suggests the dietary culprit triggering the women's insomnia was the highly-processed foods that contain larger amounts of refined sugars that aren't found naturally in food.”

The aim of the study was to help insomniacs overcome it, without resorting to treatments which may be expensive or come with side effects.

They concluded, “Based on our findings, we would need randomised clinical trials to determine if a dietary intervention, focused on increasing the consumption of whole foods and complex carbohydrates, could be used to prevent and treat insomnia.”