Excessive Salt Intake Can Disturb Your Sleep Patterns, and Here’s How

The right amount of salt in your diet can make the difference between feeling fatigued and having an endless supply of energy, but did you know that too much salt in your diet can also negatively affect your sleep patterns? In fact, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute and published in the journal Current Biology, increased consumption of salt not only interferes with your sleep quality but also causes permanent changes to your biological clock.

What Causes Insomnia?

According to a study published in 2011, individuals who drank high-salt diets took longer to fall asleep and had less non-REM sleep than those on lower-salt diets. This is partly because salt increases our sense of thirst and causes us to drink more liquids before bed, which can lead to frequent trips to the bathroom and make it difficult for us to get quality sleep.

How Salt Affects Your Body

While there are cases of high blood pressure that can’t be treated without medication, for most people, salt is a significant factor in high blood pressure. However, it’s also important to note that salt doesn’t increase blood pressure directly. Instead, it can cause your body to retain water, which raises your blood volume and therefore increases your blood pressure. Doctors have known for years that too much salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. But new research also shows that it may increase your risk of irregular heart rhythms during sleep and daytime fatigue.

Potential Dietary Sources of High Sodium

About 90 percent of Americans consume more sodium than recommended by doctors in the US. Processed and fast food contribute to excess sodium in your diet. Check labels for these high-sodium ingredients: salt, soy sauce, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sodium nitrate/nitrite. Other sources of excess salt include processed meats like bacon, sausages or hot dogs, cold cuts, cheese, bread, and canned or smoked fish.

Tips to Reduce Sodium in Diet

So first thing’s first: reduce your sodium intake by opting for snacks with 5 percent or less of their calories coming from salt; check nutrition labels for sodium content and pick foods lower in salt if there’s a choice between two options. Getting enough potassium can also help prevent disturbances to your sleep pattern—it’s found in many fruits and vegetables such as bananas, avocados, spinach, and broccoli. A healthy diet can change your days, and nights too!