A warm glass of milk, a light dinner – you’ve probably heard of the foods that your body loves when it comes to sleep. But just as important is knowing what’s bad for sleep. Some seemingly harmless habits like eating chocolate or sipping some green tea after dinner may actually be messing with your nighttime rest. Even your love for curry could do you in! Here is a look at some surprising foods and drinks that should be on the taboo list close to bedtime.
1. Sugary Food: Affects Blood Glucose Levels And Rouses You At Night
Sugar, as you probably know, is a low glycemic food that your body burns through very fast, releasing energy and giving you that classic “sugar high.” This is followed by a plummet in blood glucose levels because it is used up so fast. Relying on such foods to see you through the night is a bad idea because you’re likely to feel hungry quite soon. What’s more, it can even meddle with your sleep.
So what kinds of foods should you skip? Here’s a list of both the obvious offenders and other trickier ones that stealthily pack in the refined sugar.1:
The National Sleep Foundation says that the more sugar you consume through the day, the worse your sleeping problems will be. High sugar intake can cause you to wake up several times through the night or not manage deep sleep. You’re then likely to end up feeling quite exhausted the next day.
- Sugary sodas: Some even contain caffeine, making them twice as bad
- Candy of any kind
- Sugary desserts or puddings
- Cookies and cakes
- White bread
- Readymade sauces and ketchup
- Canned fruits
- Packaged juices
- Packaged cereals
2. Fatty Food: Expect Daytime Drowsiness And Odd-Time Night Wakings
Give the fatty meats, deep fried foods, and rich sauces a wide berth.
While how fat intake affects sleep is still under investigation, researchers suggest that it could alter the circadian regulation of the nervous, metabolic, and hormonal systems. So how does that play out for your sleep? High fat intake is linked to daytime sleepiness and dips in concentration. Having fatty foods on a regular basis may cause levels of ghrelin to drop and leptin to rise. These are hunger-regulating hormones and upsetting their balance may cause you to experience odd time rousing at night when you are trying to sleep. Also, expect more wakefulness at night.2 Added to that is the increased risk of indigestion from such fatty foods – another sleep wrecker.3
3. Spicy Food: Keeps You Up With Indigestion And Acid Reflux
Lay off the chili con carne, spicy curries, sambals, and hot sauces if you find yourself struggling to sleep after a meal with heat.
Spicy food can tickle your taste buds but it may also ruin a good night’s sleep. If you end up with indigestion, you’ll spend more time awake than asleep. For those with an acid reflux problem, eating spicy food before sleep can worsen matters. But then, if you see that spice does not aggravate your heartburn problems, it may not interfere with sleep either. There’s only one way to know if that’s true or not for you – by observing how you sleep after a meal that tips the spice scales.4
4. Caffeine: Causes Sleep Disturbance
Enjoy your coffee and tea but well before you turn in for the night. Caffeine can impact sleep even when it is consumed as much as 6 hours before bedtime! One study found that when 400 mg of caffeine (as much in a 16 oz coffee) was consumed at bedtime, 3 hours earlier, or 6 hours before sleeping, it caused sleep disturbance of varying degrees.5
Some caffeine-rich foods that you may want to give a wide berth to near bedtime are6:
- Tea (including green tea)
- Hot cocoa
- Energy drinks
- Coffee or chocolate frozen yogurt, sorbets, or ice cream
- Cereals that contain chocolate
- Chocolate pudding
5. High-Fiber Food: Causes Cramps And Overloads The Digestive System
Too much of fiber-heavy foods like dried fruit or even fiber-laden cereals or bran is a no-no at night if you have trouble sleeping.
Fiber is good for you and can even help with heart health. But dinner time or after isn’t the time you should be having fiber-rich foods. A midnight snack of these or a dinner that incorporates too much fiber can be hard to digest and overload your digestive system. If you load your digestive system with too much, it will have to keep at the job well into the wee hours. The result – your body won’t get the complete rest it needs. What’s more, when fiber-rich foods hit your colon, bacteria digest some of it, producing gas. This flatulence can meddle with your sleep.7
6. Alcohol: More Disruptive For Your Sleep Than Good
Alcohol is a mixed bag. If you think it helps you doze off faster, you are not alone. For most people, alcohol can act as a muscle relaxant, getting them into a state of slumber easily. Unfortunately, this joy is short-lived. Alcohol also causes disrupted sleep in the second half of the night. So you’ll wake up feeling less rested and could find yourself coping with daytime drowsiness. Also, you are more likely to snore when you have been drinking heavily.8
And keep in mind that your body’s tolerance for alcohol’s sedative effects develops within just one or two days of starting drinking. So you will need more and more alcohol to have the same sleep-inducing effect. And later in the night, that will mean more restless sleep.9
7. Too Much Water: Keeps You Up To Answer Nature’s Call!
It is good to stay well hydrated through the day, but bedtime may not be the right time to catch up on any deficit. Equally, thinking you need to pre-empt thirst while sleeping by drinking up before you sleep isn’t too wise. You may just end up waking up at midnight to offload the extra urine from the additional fluid intake. Drink water and fluids through the day, but slow down how much you drink an hour or two before bedtime.10
|↑1||Sweet Dreams: How Sugar Impacts Your Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑2||Cao, Yingting, Gary Wittert, Anne W. Taylor, Robert Adams, and Zumin Shi. “Associations between Macronutrient Intake and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea as Well as Self-Reported Sleep Symptoms: Results from a Cohort of Community Dwelling Australian Men.” Nutrients 8, no. 4 (2016): 207.|
|↑3||Indigestion. National Health Service.|
|↑4||GERD. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Drake, Christopher, Timothy Roehrs, John Shambroom, and Thomas Roth. “Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.” J Clin Sleep Med 9, no. 11 (2013): 1195-1200.|
|↑6||Surprising Foods That Contain Caffeine. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑7||Foods that May Cause Gas. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.|
|↑8||Ebrahim, Irshaad O., Colin M. Shapiro, Adrian J. Williams, and Peter B. Fenwick. “Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 37, no. 4 (2013).|
|↑9||Roehrs, Timothy, and Thomas Roth. “Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use.” Alcohol research and Health 25, no. 2 (2001): 101-109.|
|↑10||Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts. Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts.|