Are you struggling to stay asleep but can’t figure out why?
You may be enjoying dinners or evening snacks of foods that keep you awake.
If you’re finding it increasingly harder to sleep, but you can’t pinpoint why, your diet may be one place to start. With Daylight Saving Time coming up on November 7, sleep schedules are about to get even more out of whack.
Taking a mindful approach to keeping your sleeping patterns on track can make it easier to fall asleep when the time change comes. Sleep plays a big role in overall good health and strong immunity, which is a must-have during cold and flu season.
This post will look at foods that can cause restless nights like alcohol, salt, spicy foods, and more. Read on and see if any of these foods may be causing your sleepless nights!
The Foods That Keep You Awake at Night
If you’ve ever had a heavy meal before bed and woke up the next morning feeling unrested, you know that food definitely impacts your sleep.
While certain health conditions and environmental conditions can also keep you up at night, certain foods are known to cause restless sleep cycles as well. Improving your sleep hygiene is one simple way to vastly better your overall health. If that means skipping your nightly dessert, then it’s well worth it if it means your sleep will be more satisfying.
Here are some foods (and drinks) to avoid if you want to get a good night’s sleep:
While not technically a food, many people use alcohol as a means to get to sleep quickly. It’s also commonly consumed with other foods that may interrupt your sleep. If you’ve noticed your nightcap is contributing to crummy sleep, it may be time to give it up. Alcohol is a central nervous system stimulant that does indeed slow down your body to cause feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. The problem, though, is that alcohol can create shorter sleep cycles and imbalance your overall sleep experience.
Try giving up your evening drink during the workweek and see how it makes a difference in your sleep cycles. Journal for a week or two and note how many hours you slept and your energy levels upon waking. You may find you want to give it up altogether when you start feeling more rested!
Whether you love your afternoon soda or enjoy caffeine-infused energy bars, this favorite stimulant can quite easily wreck a good sleep schedule. Caffeine is known to cause a spike in the body 30 to 60 minutes after consumption and stimulates the body up to six hours later. So that afternoon coffee cake or evening espresso is still keeping your body humming when your mind is ready to shut down for the evening. Caffeine ingestion is known to reduce sleep time and can potentially cause fatigue, memory retention issues, and struggles with emotion regulation.
Stop your caffeine several hours before bedtime to ensure you get an uninterrupted night of sleep. Need a jumpstart? You can try a drink with lower caffeine content like green tea or even a quick exercise routine to get your energy levels back up.
3. Fat-Filled Foods
There’s a reason it’s advised individuals eat a lighter evening meal. As your body gets ready for bed, digestion slows. As a result, food can stay in the stomach longer. This can potentially cause issues that will keep you awake like acid reflux and can make it uncomfortable to sleep. One study of 440 medical students uncovered that higher fat intake meant more sleep disruptions, less total sleep time, and even less restorative sleep.
Skip foods like fried seafood or meats; cheeseburgers and fries, ice cream, and other decadent desserts a few hours before bedtime. Work to eat balanced meals throughout the day so you’re not starving by the time dinner rolls around. This can prevent the need to binge and fill yourself because you didn’t eat well throughout the day.
4. Salty Foods
Skipping ZZZs but can’t figure out why? Your evening meal may contain too much salt. An excess of salt will increase your water retention and dehydrate your body. Both will cause you to feel tired, but feeling dehydrated may cause you to wake up with headaches that interrupt your sleep. Additionally, the European Society of Endocrinology found individuals who eat foods like salty nuts before bed can contribute to “superficial” sleep and cause several sleep disturbances throughout the night.
Cut salt two to three hours before bed.
5. Spicy Foods
While spicy food is often delicious, it’s almost a guarantee you won’t sleep comfortably if you indulge in a spicy meal before bed. Spicy meals and acidic foods can cause severe heartburn, which can create major issues for individuals suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Red peppers in particular have the ability to raise your core temperature which can make it harder to fall asleep.
John Hopkins Medicine advises avoiding spicy foods three hours or more before bedtime.
6. Sugary Goodies
It’s a known fact that too much sugar isn’t good for your health, namely, your waistline. But did you know it can also have a major impact on your sleep, too? It’s not just your evening treat of ice cream, either. If your overall diet includes lots of sugar (fruits, processed foods, sugary snacks, etc.), you are probably in for more sleepless nights. In 2016, one study found that individuals who consume excessive sugar sleep less deeply and are more restless at night.
Sugar will overstimulate you and trigger your brain to stay active — even as you’re trying to fall asleep. Consider minimizing your sugar intake by early afternoon or nix it completely past a certain time. See how your sleep improves and replace your normal sugar fixes with water instead!
7. Dried Fruits
Love a handful of trail mix to snack on? Those little dried fruits may be causing big trouble for your sleep routine. Too much tasty dried fruit can cause you to have gas and cramping in the night — a surefire way to have a sleepless night.
Opt for a piece of whole fruit instead which can also satisfy a sweet tooth. It’s lighter and most fresh fruits have lots of fiber which will keep you fuller longer. A full stomach means you will be less likely to reach for more evening snacks.
Without a Doubt, Nutrition and Quality Sleep Are Linked
If you’re struggling to turn your brain off and settle in for a good night’s sleep, start first by looking at your diet. You may be surprised that a few simple tweaks can help you fall into a deeper slumber.
A few other nutritional tips for sleeping well:
- Don’t eat too late - Eating close to bed can make it hard to get comfortable when you have a full stomach. It can also cause acid reflux issues, which may cause you to cough and wake you up.
- Watch your portions - See how a lighter meal in the evenings makes you feel. You’ll want to ensure you still have protein to stay full. Using a smaller plate can help you work on your portion control, too.
- Try sleep snacks - If you do have a hard time falling asleep and can’t break your snack-after-dinner habit just yet, try a “sleep snack.” These are foods known to promote sleep. Healthy options include cherries, turkey, and almonds. A small, snack-sized portion is key, though!
When you overall eat a healthy diet, it can help you sleep better. You’re at less risk for sleep-related disorders like sleep apnea which can happen if you’re obese. Getting proper sleep can also help you make smarter food choices throughout the day. Research shows those who are well-rested aim to eat healthier and make positive food choices.
If you start taking note of sleep-disturbing foods and recognize the connections between sleep and nutrition, you’ll maximize your opportunities to eat well and sleep better. There’s no single diet that’s best for sleep, so being aware of your own experiences and food triggers can help you experience better sleep and overall health.
Lastly, don’t let your sleep issues go on too long if you find eliminating these foods doesn’t help along with other sleeping tricks. Long-term insomnia can cause issues with the heart and even cause strokes and hypertension issues, along with memory loss and a weakened immune system.
What foods have you found keep you up at night? Share your insights in the comments below!