Whether it’s turning off the TV early or diffusing lavender essential oil, we’ve all tried some tricks to get more shut-eye. One aspect of our evening routine we may not give much thought to, though, is what we eat. And that’s a mistake.
The foods and drinks we consume can have a big impact on our sleep, according to dietitian Megan Ostler, M.S., R.D.N., Director of iFit Nutrition. When her clients struggle to get at least seven hours of sleep, she has them log what they eat in the evenings for a week to help identify specific sleep thieves. “Those who suffer from reflux may find that spicy food, chocolate, or high-fat foods increase it at night,” she says. “Others find that any amount of food after a certain time affects their sleep.”
There are a handful of foods and drinks known to be detrimental to sleep, whether they keep you wired or lead to digestive issues. Read on for eight of the worst foods and drinks to have before bed.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
“Some people have issues digesting cruciferous vegetables, which can cause gas, cramping, and bloating,” says Morgyn Clair, M.S., R.D.N, a dietitian with Sprint Kitchen. Delish as these veggies may be, they release gas-producing compounds during the digestion process. To avoid discomfort come bedtime, Clair recommends avoiding broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and the like for three to four hours before bedtime
2. Tomato Sauce
Sorry, pasta fiends. “Tomato sauce is another veggie-based favorite to avoid,” says Shannon Henry, R.D., a dietitian with EZCare Clinic. “Because of its high acidity, it’s often the cause of morning-after heartburn and indigestion.” If you’re going the spaghetti route for dinner, make sure to eat at least three hours before you plan on hitting the hay.
Spicy-style sauces, in particular, are one of the worst foods to have before bed. “Spicy foods, which are also notorious for causing heartburn, make for an extra restless night of sleep because they raise your core body temperature,” Henry says. “So if you’re wondering why you had a nightmare after munching on some spicy penne arrabiata, now you have your reason.”
3. Anything Fried Or Greasy
As satisfying a late-night eat they may seem, greasy foods high in saturated fat like cheeseburgers, pizza, and potato chips are a poor choice before bedtime if you want a solid night’s shuteye. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine linked higher saturated fat intake with lighter sleep. Though the authors indicate that additional studies need to be conducted, “these results, along with others, suggest that dietary patterns with differing fat content affect sleep,” says dietitian and professor of nutrition Jinan Banna, Ph.D., R.D.
4. Cured Meats and Aged Cheeses
We know, we know. A cheese platter with a few rich slivers of prosciutto pairs perfectly with your latest guilty pleasure Hulu series. Still, you may want to keep these foods to daytime noshing.
“If you planned on ending your day with a fabulous charcuterie platter, reconsider moving it to brunch,’ says Henry. “Cured meats and cheeses contain tyramine, an amino acid that makes you more awake.” Aged or strong cheeses, such as blue cheeses like Stilton or Gorgonzola, are particularly potent culprits.
5. Dark Chocolate
“Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which stimulate the central nervous system,” comments Banna. (Theobromine, for example, has been shown to increase heart rate.) “Since caffeine can stay in the system for up to 10 hours, it would be wise to avoid chocolate too close to bed.”
So while those post-dinner squares of chocolate placed on your hotel bed may look enticing, you might just find that skipping them improves your sleep quality.
6. Water (In Excess)
Betcha didn’t expect to see this one on a list of the worst foods and drinks to have before bed, did you? We’re all for guzzling enough H2O, but overdoing it before bed can wreak havoc on your sleep. “While, of course, you need to stay hydrated, if you chug too much water before bed, you might find yourself waking up numerous times to relieve yourself,” says Banna. “If you can stay hydrated during the day rather than trying to catch up at night, that should help.”
If you find yourself super-thirsty before bed, consider tracking your water intake throughout the day to make sure you’re getting your fill—and consulting with a medical professional if you still feel parched all the time.
Because it’s both spicy (thus potentially causing heartburn) and high in alertness-boosting tyramine, kimchi is a double-whammy sleep-buster.
Banna recommends avoiding this fermented snack several hours before bed.
8. Caffeinated Drinks
No surprise here: “Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your energy and alertness while decreasing feelings of fatigue,” Ostler says. “Caffeine consumption is one of the main culprits affecting sleep. For most people, drinks high in caffeine, like soda, coffee, and green tea, should be avoided at night.”
While caffeine’s ability to interfere with your slumber depends on how fast you metabolize it, as a rule of thumb, Ostler suggests avoiding it after 2 p.m. Need more reinforcement? One Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study suggests that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime reduces total sleep time by one hour.