In addition to providing the nourishment we need to survive and thrive, the foods we eat (and the ones we avoid) can effect how well we sleep at night, and how awake we feel during the day. It's not surprising to most people that an evening cup of coffee may disrupt your sleep patterns. There are, however, less obvious foods and drinks that can keep you up at night, and other ones that may help make you sleepy.
Knowing which foods to avoid before bed can mean the difference of a healthy full night of sleep or tossing and turning all night long. We've compiled a list of 9 foods to avoid in the hours before bed for a good night's sleep.
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Celery – Although it is healthy, it’s also a diuretic. A late night snack of celery may have you awake and running to the restroom.
Processed or Smoked Meats – These meats also contain high levels of tyramine and should be avoided before bedtime.
Soy – With some of the highest levels of tyramine – a chemical the brain releases to make us feel alert – Fermented soy products should be avoided in the hours before bed. This includes soy sauce, tofu, miso and teriyaki sauce.
High Fat, Greasy Food – It’s ok to indulge once in a while but research shows that eating high-fat foods before bed can disrupt your sleep cycles. Not to mention running the risk of heartburn and indigestion also keeping you awake at night. Avoiding high-fat foods at least 3 hours before bedtime is best.
Aged Cheese – Another food containing high levels of tyramine that makes your body feel awake. The ones to avoid are Parmesan, Romano, Asiago & other hard cheeses.
Spicy Foods – It’s best to avoid spicy food well before bedtime, especially if you’re prone to heartburn. When you lay down after eating spicy food you are increasing your chances for heartburn or making it worse, certain to keep you awake tossing and turning.
Citrus Fruits & Juices – Eating these fruits, like grapefruit and oranges, will increase the acidity in your stomach ultimately leading to heartburn.
Milk Chocolate – Most milk chocolate contains tyrosine, which is converted into dopamine. Dopamine is a stimulant that makes you feel alert and restless. Be sure to steer clear of any milk chocolate before bedtime. On the other hand, a small amount of dark chocolate is ok.
Alcohol – Although alcohol may help put you to sleep faster, you could experience a less restful sleep due to headaches and night sweats. Alcohol may also prevent you from entering a deep stage of sleep, leaving you feeling groggy in the morning. For a fully refreshing night’s sleep avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime and try to dilute the alcohol’s effects by drinking water along with it.
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We all know to avoid the caffeinated drinks -- coffees, some teas, and soda -- that keep us awake before bed; but be on the lookout for "hidden caffeine" that can be found in certain medications, asprin, diet pills, or even pain relievers. Be sure to check your information sheet along with these medicines to see if any sleep disturbances are noted.
In addition to what you eat, when you eat can effect how well you sleep. For a good night's rest be sure to eat a small snack a few hours before bedtime. Don't go to bed hungry, but avoid eating right before bed as your body needs time to digest what you eat and this can keep you awake. Avoid large, high-fat meals late in the day as well due to the potential for heartburn and discomfort.
Recognizing foods that can lead to restlessness and avoiding them can make it easier to ensure a full night of sleep.
Read our companion article 9 Foods That Help You Sleep Better to learn which foods will keep you on track for a full night's rest.