One lady wrote: “I have had chronic insomnia for 30+ years which has worsened in the last 12-18 months. I have found a clear link between certain foods and drinks containing preservatives and being awake till 5 am in the morning. I discovered a dietitian who helped me with a low chemical elimination diet and food challenges. I am finding that salicylates also have a significant effect. I have been amazed at how my sleep has improved, for the first time in 30 years. I am very interested in this area of insomnia and sleep disturbance and strongly feel that people should be more aware of the link between diet and sleep.”
Few people expect sleep problems to be the main symptom investigated for diet but different sleep disturbances are often reported as decreasing in diet responders. You may find the problems annoying but not so great that you have asked a doctor about them. You can have your own group of sleep problems including difficulty settling to sleep, having only a few hours of sleep, restless sleep [including tossing off blankets], dreams, night terrors, waking in fright, sleep walking and waking if there is any light, sound, uncomfortable clothing, or change in temperature.
Dreams and nightmares
You may expect to have vivid dreams (including nightmares) that you just accept happen to you. They could be as severe as one woman who wrote to me. She described her sleep problems by saying “I wake up in a confused state from sleeping. I am panicked, my heart is racing and it takes about 10 minutes for me to get back to reality. It is very frightening waking up in this state.” This is probably a very good description of what we call “night terrors” in children, but children cannot describe what is happening to them nearly as well as she has done. Parents often say the child who wakes after night terrors cannot be consoled for quite a while.
A milder form of this is waking very worried about whatever may be relevant in your life. This can vary from a concern you have left a tap running, to a concern a child may have something terrible happening to her. Food-sensitive people report this only happening with diet reactions. One woman reported that she woke with a panic attack whenever she ate tomatoes.
Settling and restless sleep
You can expect to have trouble going off to sleep but sleep well, or you may settle well but wake very easily. These two types of sleep problems can occur separately or both in the same person.
Light sleeping and temperature sensitivity
You can expect to be a light sleeper. You may wake with noises or lights being on anywhere, changes in temperature, folds in your clothes, or even during a full moon, none of which disturbs sleep in others.
You can read this and more in Chapter 2 in Tolerating Troublesome Foods: Understanding Adverse Reactions. You can purchase as an eBook or hard copy here or via Amazon Kindle here.