9 Of the Worst Foods To Eat Before Bed
We all have nights where no matter how many times we toss and turn, we just can’t get to sleep. However, these days, sleep problems are more and more common. Even if you don’t currently suffer from a sleep disorder, there are so many hurdles we face in this modern-day to get a good night’s rest.
There is probably a plethora of reasons why you haven’t been able to get to sleep at night: it’s too hot, stress from a long day, too much blue light exposure, lack of physical activity, pandemic anxiety, etc.
This has led people to try plenty of different sleep remedies, nonetheless many of us still can’t seem to consistently doze off and still find ourselves counting sheep all night long.
Unfortunately, there is one key reason behind your lack of ability to fall asleep that is often overlooked by most people – the foods you eat and drink before bedtime can critically impact how quickly you can fall asleep and the quality of sleep you do get.
If you want 16 more tips for maximizing your snoozing, then check out our article: Get Your Sleep On Better Sleep For A Better You
Now if you’re now remembering all that advice about not eating before bed and considering skipping eating before bed altogether, don’t do that.
Sometimes when it’s late and dark, we find ourselves drawn to the fridge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - we can’t control when hunger strikes and it’s not good to go to bed on an empty stomach. Listen to your body. If your blood sugar levels drop before bed, it’ll also interfere with your ability to sleep well.
Plus, bedtime snacks are a way to unwind and enjoy life’s little pleasure for some people. For most people, there is nothing wrong with having a small snack before they go to sleep. The issue is what you snack on. The nutrition of what you choose to eat deserves just as much attention as the rest of your eating plan and can drastically affect your sleep.
A big part of practicing good sleep hygiene includes wisely choosing dinners and late-night snacks. You know that classic old-fashioned age-old adage ‘you are what you eat,’ well it really does apply when it comes to how you sleep.
If you practice savvy snacking you might even be able to use bedtime snacking as an opportunity to boost your nutrition, increase better sleep chances, and further your health goals (research has found that consuming certain vital foods at night can increase muscle recovery from exercise).
You see, it’s all about taking a mindful approach toward what you eat as your late-night snack.
What foods should you avoid at nighttime?
So, you want to catch plenty of quality ZZZs, what foods should you be avoiding at nighttime for better sleep. Let’s take a look:
1. Heavy and big meals
Late-night burgers may seem like a cozy and fun midnight vibe, but it’s hurting your sleep.
A high intake of sodium, fat and total energy from heavy meals weigh on your stomach, taking a while to digest, leading to indigestion which we all know can be a pain when we’re trying to fall asleep, and taking up power from your brain when it’s trying to shut down for the night.
Avoid things like pre-bedtime meals like nachos, cheeseburgers, fried foods, and even beloved pizza leftovers.
2. Alcohol… yes, even wine
A warm glass of wine or a couple of beers may seem like the perfect way to unwind and help you fall asleep, yet it does the opposite. Yes, we know alcoholic beverages like wine do make you feel sleepy, but this is only an initial effect.
Alcohol does help you doze off but metabolizes quickly, wearing off quickly and interrupting your natural sleep cycle, and decreasing the amount of REM sleep you catch.
The consumption of alcohol also affects the sphincter muscle, creating an opening, and causing acid reflux. Even just one glass of wine or bottle of beer can interfere can contribute to a restless night.
Who doesn’t like a warm cup of hot cocoa or a handful of chocolate squares to relax before bedtime? It feels so soothing. Nevertheless, those chocolate chips cookies or Hershey’s bars are not doing you any favors when it comes to soothing sleep.
Chocolate contains caffeine. As most of us know caffeine is known for giving us energy spikes, which isn’t exactly ideal for a calming restful night.
Another beloved and classic midnight snack: a bowl of cereal. Sadly, most cereals aren’t an ideal choice for your sleep because they have a lot of hidden added sugars and sweeteners that will cause your blood sugar levels to soar and crash. Wild glucose level fluctuations like this can lead to a poor night’s sleep.
5. Sugary foods and drinks
Yep, you probably guessed right from above… sugary foods are not ideal for being able to get to sleep. When you eat high-sugar foods (and drinks,) it causes your insulin to yo-yo wreaking havoc on your body’s ability to fall asleep and causing irregular sleeping patterns like restless sleep.
6. Tyramine-rich foods
Foods that are high in tyramine are not at all ideal for your ZZZs!
What exactly are tyramine-rich foods you may ask? Well, tyramine is a chemical in the body that helps your nervous system and brain function. High levels of tyramine are found in pickled and fermented foods like tofu, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled beets. Additionally, there are also high levels of tyramine in aged protein-containing foods such as salt-dried fish and aged cheeses.
Tyramine can increase your brain activity and release a brain stimulant called norepinephrine, causing falling asleep to become more of a struggle.
7. Spicy food
Some of the worst foods you can consume before sleep time are spicy foods. They can cause heartburn and digestive troubles and cause heartburn. Both are uncomfortable symptoms that can wreak havoc on your sleep.
Plus, the research found that the compound capsaicin which is found in spicy foods can increase your body temperature. As you probably know from hot summer nights where you find yourself tossing and turning all night, your body temperature should be cool to facilitate sleep. Hence, maybe skip the jalapeno peppers before bed and stick to just having hot sauce on your scrambled eggs at breakfast.
8. Citrus fruits and acidic foods in general
No surprise that another trigger for acid reflux sleep wrecking is acidic food. Foods and drinks like citrus fruits (think lemons, oranges, grapefruits), fruit juices, raw onion, and wine disturb your sleep by exacerbating heartburn and disturbing sleep.
Chips are by far the western world’s favorite snack. They’re light, crunchy, and more-ish. However, chips aren’t just horrifically high in fat but also greasy. Research has shown that (along with dairy and sugary products) that are fatty greasy foods before bed, are not only bad for digestion but can make you more prone to nightmares.
So, maybe save your Pringles for lunch instead.
Don’t worry ruin a perfectly good night’s sleep just for some snacks. Bad nighttime snacking habits can thwart sleep and leave you restless all day, undermining a day full of healthy choices and exercise.
By removing the foods and drinks we just talked about from your nighttime snacking routine and habits, you’ll experience much better sleeping patterns and find yourself dozing off faster than ever before.
Though, this doesn’t mean you have to give up late-night snacking entirely; for some, going to bed hungry is disastrous for sleep quality. Instead, just opt for healthier, sleep-friendly snacking choices.
Good bedtime snacks include kiwis, cherries, warm milk, whole-grain crackers, and walnuts. When choosing your bedtime snacks, look for snacks that are quality sources of key sleep nutrients like tryptophan and magnesium.
Our personal favorite to help our bodies set up for sleep is to drink a cup of tea as bedtime approaches (about 1 to 2 hours before). This will help you naturally unwind, prevent hunger by staying hydrated, and if you choose tea herbs that are specifically targeted for sleep, you’ll receive natural calming sedative effects.
Yes, some herbs have natural capabilities that’ll help you have a restorative night's sleep.
For example - Wise Ape Tea's Orange Dreamiscle is a dreamy blend of chamomile flowers with subtle hints of orange and cream, combined with adaptogenic super-herbs to support your nightly zen, and it includes incredible sleep-wise herbs like organic Chamomile, organic Valerian Root, organic Skullcap, and organic Passionflower.
And if you want to learn more about these fantastic herbs that promote sleep and support relaxation in your body, visit our blog post on 4 Herbs That’ll Help You Sleep Better And Doze Off Faster.
This informative article is written, by Sophia McKenzie. Sophia is head content creator and writer, for several premium websites, where her expertise lies in health, nutrition, and wellness. Her content focuses on providing and sharing doable solutions to help people truly thrive and live their happiest, healthiest, fulfilled lives.