6 Everyday Foods That Are Wrecking Your Sleep

Sleep is critical for optimal health and brain performance. There’s no getting around it, there’s no cutting corners, your simply brain needs good quality sleep!

Sleep is a time for your brain to process information, build, repair, prune, and preserve new neurons! It’s also a really important time for your brain’s glymphatic system, your brain own lymphatic system, to flush out toxins and run off from a day of vigorous activity. [R] This allows you to wake up feeling rested, revitalized, and rejuvenated.

When you get poor quality sleep, you’re not going to reap those benefits. Maybe one night here or there is ok, you can recover, but after days, weeks, and even months of poor sleep… you start to build QUITE a hefty sleep debt thats not easy to make up. [R]

A critical hormone in regulating sleep that you may be familiar with is a hormone called Melatonin. Melatonin levels rise in your body roughly 2 hours before bedtime, triggering tiredness and sleepiness, then lowers upon throughout the night until you wake up.

It’s important to know that melatonin is conversely related to cortisol, your bodies stress hormone. So as melatonin goes up, cortisol goes down and we sleep. As melatonin goes down and cortisol goes up, we wake!

Cortisol also plays a major role in managing our circadian rhythm, which is the bodies natural inernal clock that triggers sleep and wakefulness within our 24-hour day. As a side note, too much cortisol can also make our body more insulin resistant, meaning our cells become “calloused” to insulin thus causing a buildup of inflammation and subsequent health issues.

So you can imagine if we have too much cortisol being produced by our bodies, then obviously our circadian rhythm, melatonin, and sleep are all going to be negatively impacted leading us more fatigue, more inflammation, more fat gain, less energy, worse brain performance, and just a non-awesome life in general.

A good way to understand cortisol is that it responds to stress. Your brain and body perceive a threat and cortisol gets produced to help your body stay fully functional and alert incase of a predator. It’s fantastic for short term survival in the jungle, but if allowed to last long term, it wrecks your sleep and therefore your health.


You may be surprised to find there are many everyday foods that we are putting into our body that are throwing your cortisol levels around like a ragdoll!

  1. Trans fat — Do I really need to address this one? Even the FDA can agree that trans-fat wreaks havoc on our health increasing inflammation and spiking your cortisol!
  2. Vegetable Oils — Safflower oil, palm oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, and other similar vegetable oils have two issues. First, they typically oxidize extremely quickly. Oxiditaion is a form of “rusting” in fats. When these oils get heated they “rust” very quickly which creates an inflammatory response in the body. Second, these oils are typically loaded with toxins from their processing which also makes them very inflammatory. Thanks to both of these, they stimulate a cortisol spike in your body.
  3. Fruit Juice/Yogurts — I combined both of these together because both of these are marketed as “health foods,” when in reality they are sugar bombs. Both of these are typically loaded with sugar that creates a spike in blood sugar and insulin, which stimulates a cortisol response.
  4. Alcohol — “I just want to take the edge off after a long day.” Alcohol has been seen as way to calm down after a long day and many believe it helps them get a good night sleep. It turns out that alcohol actually does more harm than good… unfortunately. Alcohol has been shown to increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep and also increases cortisol levels. [R]
  5. Low Fiber Carbs — Fiber is great fuel for building healthy gut bacteria, but they also help for sugar to get absorbed and digested slower, which creates less of a spike in your insulin levels, keeping your cortisol low. Low fiber carbs (bananas, processed snack foods, sugar, syrup, soda, etc) have all the carbohydrates, which get broken down to sugar, with no buffer. They get absorbed far too quickly, leading to a significant increase in cortisol.
  6. Poor Quality Meats — Poor quality meat that is not sustainably raised, typically feed poor quality food, antibiotics, and hormones tend to have a much higher ration of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6’s are PRO-inflammatory, meaning that increase inflammation in the gut and the body, whereas Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6’s tend to increase cortisol levels as a response to the increased inflammation. Go Grass-fed, Pasture Raised, Wild Caught, Hormone, Antibiotic-Free Meats.

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