Nobody likes spending hours struggling to fall asleep. Several factors can keep you awake at night, including your environment, health conditions, and lifestyle.
Fortunately, there are ways you can improve your quality of sleep. One of the most important changes is watching what you eat before bed.
Factors such as caffeine content, sodium levels, and even the pH of the food you eat can affect how well you sleep.
It’s not just junk food that can ruin your sleep, either—plenty of nutritious foods can cause issues if you eat them before bed. The key is not to avoid these foods altogether, but to consume them earlier in the day.
So, do you want to start sleeping better? These eight foods to avoid before sleep might be the source of your sleeping problems. And if you can’t resist a nighttime snack, we’ve also provided a few alternative foods that could potentially improve your quality of sleep.
1. Caffeinated Drinks
One of the worst things you can consume before bed is caffeinated drinks. This includes more than just coffee—energy drinks, several types of tea, and soft drinks all include caffeine that can keep you tossing and turning all night.
The reason caffeine keeps people awake is that it blocks adenosine, a key chemical in our brains that makes us feel tired.
Additionally, drinking caffeine can cause some side effects that make sleeping difficult. These side effects include:
- Increase heart rate
- Frequent urination
Out of all the foods that prevent sleep, caffeine is one of the worst. This chemical can remain in your body for a long time, so avoid consuming it any later than 3 p.m.
2. Sugary Treats
While it may feel tempting to enjoy a dessert late in the evening, it’s best to save these snacks for the afternoon at the latest. Sugary treats are an important food to avoid before bed.
One of the main problems of eating sugar before bed is that it can raise your blood sugar. Heightened blood sugar levels can make you feel restless and cause frequent urination throughout the night.
Some studies suggest that eating sugar before bed can increase your risk of nightmares. The reason for this is not certain, but some suspect it’s because sugar causes more activity in your brain while you sleep.
Another reason to avoid sweets before bed is that many of them contain caffeine. Chocolate, lattes, and even certain baked goods can speed up your heart rate and leave you feeling jittery.
3. Spicy Food
While spicy food can come with many health benefits, it can also lead to sleep problems if you consume it too close to bedtime.
Capsaicin, a component that gives peppers their fiery sensation, can increase your body temperature. Because your temperature needs to drop before you fall asleep, consuming too much capsaicin before bed can make sleeping difficult.
Eating spicy food can also increase your risk of acid reflux. This condition can cause pain and discomfort that makes it difficult to get comfortable.
Another reason to avoid spicy food before bed is that it can increase your heart rate. When your body drifts into sleep, your heart rate slows down as well. So when you consume spicy food before bed, you might hinder this process.
4. Alcoholic Drinks
While alcohol can help people fall asleep, it usually results in a poor quality of sleep. So if you need plenty of rest for the day ahead, you should not drink alcohol in the evening beforehand.
If you drink alcohol before bed, you may feel poorly rested in the morning. You may also wake up several times throughout the night. Because it is a diuretic, alcoholic drinks can also result in frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Another reason to avoid alcohol before bed is that it can cause acid reflux. Alcoholic drinks can increase the acid in your stomach. They can also weaken the esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach acid to enter your esophagus, causing a burning sensation.
Drinking alcohol before bed can potentially worsen symptoms of sleep apnea, too. If you have this condition, it is especially important to limit your alcohol consumption before bed.
5. Greasy Foods
Greasy foods are delicious snacks any time of day. Unfortunately, they can harm your sleep schedule. There are a few key reasons why you should not eat oily foods before bed.
One major reason to avoid greasy food at night is that it can cause heartburn. This is because high-fat foods take longer to digest, which means your stomach has to produce more acid. As a result, you can experience acid reflux after eating fried foods.
Greasy foods can also cause bloating and indigestion, which makes falling asleep difficult for many people.
The high sodium content in greasy foods can impact your quality of sleep, too. Many people who eat salty, greasy foods before bed wakes up several times throughout the night. High-sodium foods can also cause dehydration, which makes falling asleep very difficult.
6. Acidic Foods
If you have a late-night snack, foods with a low pH should not be on the menu. Be sure to watch out for acidic foods such as:
- Citrus fruit
- Soft drinks
Eating acidic foods can damage the lining of your esophagus, which increases your risk of heartburn. As a result, consuming acidic foods before bed can lead to a poor night’s sleep.
7. High-Fiber Foods
A high-fiber diet has several benefits for your health. However, that does not mean fiber-rich food is a smart choice any time of day. Enjoying high-fiber foods too late in the day can make sleeping difficult.
High-fiber foods can often leave you feeling bloated and gassy. In some cases, consuming too much fiber at once can cause stomach cramps as well. This kind of discomfort can prevent people from getting enough sleep.
The main benefit of fiber is that it helps move food through your digestive system. So if you eat a fiber-rich meal right before you sleep, it may mean several trips to the bathroom throughout the night.
Examples of high-fiber foods include:
- Chia seeds
- Certain types of cereal
- Dried fruit
That said, you should not cut these foods out of your diet altogether. Instead, save high-fiber foods for breakfast, lunch, or early dinners.
8. Foods With Tyramine
Tyramine is an amino acid you can find in many types of food. While it is not inherently harmful, it can cause problems if you consume it late at night.
Some examples of food that contain tyramine include:
- Aged cheeses
- Cured meats
- Certain alcoholic drinks
- Citrus fruits
- Pickled foods
- Fermented foods
This amino acid stimulates activity in your brain, which can make falling asleep very difficult. Some studies suggest tyramine can cause migraines in some people as well. So overall, it is best to limit your intake of foods that contain this amino acid.
9. Diuretic Foods
Diuretics can cause frequent urination. Consuming these foods before bed will result in several trips to the bathroom, which can be disruptive to your sleep pattern.
Here are a few diuretic foods to avoid before sleep:
- Citrus fruit
- Soft drinks
If you enjoy any of these foods, it’s best to eat them several hours before you usually go to bed.
Alternatives to These 8 Foods To Avoid Before Sleep
You don’t need to avoid all snacks or drinks before bed. Some foods can make it easier for you to fall asleep and even improve your quality of sleep.
So next time you’re craving a late-night snack, consider one of these options:
- Chamomile tea
- Low-fat cottage cheese
These foods help reduce your risk of bloating, heartburn, and other issues that often keep people awake at night.
Other foods that are high in magnesium, calcium, and melatonin can make suitable snacks before bed.
Can Eating Dinner Too Late At Night Affect Your Sleep?
Regardless of what you eat, dining late at night can negatively impact how well you sleep.
It’s best to eat dinner at least 3 hours before you go to sleep. This time frame gives your body plenty of time to digest before you doze off.
Summary – Foods That Prevent Sleep
The types of food we eat make a big impact on our health. However, the time of day we consume certain types of food matters, too.
One of the best ways to improve your sleep schedule is to watch what you eat before bed. The source of your insomnia or other sleep struggles might be your favorite late-night snack.
So, which foods hinder your ability to sleep? The most important foods to avoid before sleep are ones high in sodium, caffeine, or sugar. You should also avoid foods that increase your risk of heartburn and diuretic effects. Changing your diet may have a bigger impact on your sleep than you’d expect!