Avoiding a Baaaaa-d Sleep

Having trouble sleeping at night? Counting sheep isn't helping? Maybe you should avoid eating them! And cows. And chickens. And fish. And anything else in the animal kingdom!

It turns out that a diet high in animal proteins often leads to problems or sluggishness, heartburn, ulcer formation and a host of other problems guaranteed to play havoc with your peace of mind... if not your sleep. Just what is the correlation between meat eating and health concerns?

Well, protein is digested by two kinds of enzymes, exopeptidases which work from the outside in and endopeptidses which operate from within the protein. Two of the latter's more common enzymes are pepsin and trypsin. Pepsin is secreted in the stomach. Pepsin will only be activated if the pH drops below pH 6. Hence, protein digestion in the stomach only takes place in acidic conditions. The type of protein to be to be digested influences the pH at which pepsin operates. Animal proteins are digested at lower pH levels (hence, more acid) than plant proteins. Eggs, for example, require a pH of 1.5 which is considerably lower than pH optimum of pepsin and much lower than pH requirements for plant protein digestion.

The fact is, a diet high in animal proteins will require longer periods of stomach digestion, at lower pH levels, than plant proteins. Longer stomach retention encourages fermentation and this, in combination with higher acid levels, contributes to the yucky sluggish-heartburn-ulcer conditions mentioned before.

To recap:
  • You eat meat.
  • Meat is a protein.
  • Protein needs acid for digestion.
  • Meat protein needs more acid than plant protein.
  • Meat protein stays in your tummy longer and starts to rot.
  • Rot & acid cause tummyaches, etc.
  • Your tummy hurts; you don't sleep.

Things get even more complicated. Animal products have a high free-fat content. Fat isn't digested in the stomach, so it just floats around coating the food in slime and inhibiting the water-soluble pepsin from operating efficiently.


You can further complicate this already complex digestion process by drinking lots of fluids with your meals. Liquids consumed during the meal dilute enzyme concentrations in the stomach and therefore, slow down the rate of protein digestion. Water should be taken before or after the meal---not during it.

So, next time counting sheep just isn't working for you, consider eliminating them and other meat proteins from your diet. You might find yourself sleeping better. At the very least, it could cut down on your mad cow disease nightmares!