Poor sleep is increasingly common amongst Australians, so much so that sleep disorders alone cost our economy more than $5.1 billion a year in health care and indirect costs.

However, all this money spent on trying to get a better night’s sleep can be significantly reduced if we start by making simple dietary and lifestyle changes – which in turn will improve memory, productivity and overall happiness.

To kick start your pathway to a healthier you, here are five foods and drinks to avoid to ensure you wake up feeling rejuvenated 365 days of the year:

Caffeine

Okay, an obvious one – and yet you still reach for it.

The role of caffeine blocks the sleeping-inducing chemical adenosine for up to six hours, preventing you from getting your recommended 7-8 hours (for the average adult) of sleep.

While it does sound like a no-brainer to cut out coffee, unfortunately it isn’t the only source of caffeine you need to avoid. Herbal teas, soft drinks and hot chocolate are other culprits that keep us awake at night.

Make the switch

If you love the taste of coffee, try switching to decaf. Also make sure to stay hydrated with good ol’ water during the day and especially at night as even going to bed mildly dehydrated can disrupt your sleep. A lack of pre-bed fluids can also lead to nocturnal leg cramps, which may keep you awake.

Red meat

It’s common for many people to come home from work, and not have the chance to sit down to have dinner until very late.

While red meats are an incredibly important part of a diet (given you’re a carnivore) – providing your body with protein, iron, vitamin B12 and zinc – they do take longer to digest than other foods.

Make the switch

If you know you’ll be eating late, opt for a lighter meal that still provides you with adequate amounts of protein and nutrients. An example might be a simple salad made with leafy greens, olive oil, boiled eggs (FYI eggs have been scientifically proven to improve sleep), and a single serving of healthy wholegrains.

Try have your biggest meal during the day, and keep your dinners light, which will make you feel more comfortable when it’s time to rest.

Generally speaking, it is recommended that you wait for 2 to 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime, as this allows for digestion to occur and the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine.

Alcohol

A glass of red might seem like the best way to wind down after work, but researchers say alcohol causes us to wake regularly during the night, thereby reducing the quality of our sleep. Dave Gibson, a sleep expert and found of the Sleep Site, explained to the Independent exactly how it affects our sleep: “Alcohol negatively affects the balance of our REM sleep – the deep restorative sleep where our short-term memory is processed – particularly during the second half of the night. This means we are more likely to have disrupted sleep during this period.”

Make the switch

If that glass of wine is too good to resist, stick to one glass at least two hours before bed to avoid a sleepless night. It’s also best to avoid sugary cocktails, especially during the week, if you want to avoid having a restless night and wake up feeling groggy.

Sugar

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, people with a diet high in sugar are likely to experience more disrupted sleep. On the other hand, the researchers found those who eat meals high in protein and low in saturated fat fall asleep faster (by more than 10 minutes) and sleep for longer.

Make the switch

It’s a no-brainer to limit your sugar intake. If you need a sugar hit, opt for a piece of fruit instead, which will also provide you with some gut-loving fibre – a component the study found to have a direct link to deeper sleep.

Spicy and fermented foods

Sorry kimchi lovers. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, aged cheese and cured meats contain an amino acid called tyramine that stimulates the brain and can get in the way of a serious snooze fest. Moreover, capsaicin, the spicy element found in chilli, can lead to an unsettling night and can also raise your body temperature.

Make the switch

Good news is you don’t have to say sayonara to your favourite spicy and fermented foods forever. After all, they contain a powerful nutritional punch. But to ensure they don’t mess with your sleep, consume them earlier in the day, and if you need a bite of cheese before bed, stick to fresh varieties like ricotta.

For more on this topic, these are the foods you SHOULD eat before bed to get a better night’s sleep. Plus, these are 10 weird tricks to keep up your sleeve that will improve your sleep.

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