You can probably count all the reasons you didn't get a good night of sleep on both hands. Your partner's snoring. Stress from your workday. Too much light coming through your window. Looking at blue light from your screens.
But there's another key reason why you might not be sleeping as well as you deserve to — the foods you eat before bedtime. While there's nothing wrong with a small bedtime snack for most people, the foods you choose can affect your sleep. You already know to stay away from coffee late at night, but that's not the only culprit when it comes to sleep issues and food. Take a look at the 11 worst foods to eat before bed.
If you ever experience acid reflux or heartburn, you probably already know tomatoes are not good pre-bedtime. Once you lie down, gravity no longer keeps the acidity from the tomatoes from crawling up your esophagus and making your night miserable. Yes, that means no pizza before bed.
That cup of hot chocolate may feel so soothing, and that warm chocolate chip cookie may feel like the perfect thing to wrap up your day, but they're not doing you any favors when it comes to your sleep schedule. Chocolate contains caffeine, which keeps your body from the deep sleep it needs. Yes, chocolate has less caffeine than coffee, but it's still too much, especially if you're a lover of dark chocolate (which has more caffeine than milk chocolate).
That late-night burger and fries are definitely hurting your sleep, thanks to their fat content. Fatty foods take longer and are harder to digest, so you end up trying to put your brain to sleep while your digestive system is still churning away. The bloating that can come with high-fat foods doesn't help, either. So say no to those pre-bedtime nachos — and, yes, once again, most versions of pizza are also on the list here.
Plenty of people like a bowl of cereal as a bedtime snack — but try to stick with healthier, whole-grain choices with fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving if you want to sleep well. Fun cereals, such as Lucky Charms or Cap'n Crunch, are loaded with sugar. If you eat those before bedtime, your blood sugar will soar upwards — and soon after, it'll crash. The overall result of these wildly fluctuating glucose levels is a poor night's sleep.
Of course, you want to be drinking lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. But the more you drink right before bed, the more you're likely to find yourself waking up for a trip to the bathroom. To hit your hydration goals, try to drink more during the day and less those last few hours before bedtime.
Tomatoes aren't the only food that can cause acid reflux. Onions create gas as they move through your digestive system. That gas affects the pressure within your stomach, which can send acid back up your esophagus, especially when you're lying down flat. Sadly, both raw and grilled onions have this effect.
Once you realize that both high-sugar and high-fat foods are problematic before bedtime, you'll see why donuts are one of the worst foods to eat before bed. Here's a fried food that's also high in sugar. That means you're likely to have to deal with both that blood sugar spike and the digestive issues that come with high-fat foods at the same time — not a great recipe for falling asleep.
Yes, dried fruit is high in fiber, which is good for your digestive system. But all that fiber close to bedtime can rev up your digestive system in some uncomfortable ways, including creating gas and bloating. In addition, dried fruit has higher sugar levels than fresh fruit, which can lead to that unwelcome sugar rush. Opt for a small serving of fresh fruit as a bedtime snack instead.
This one may come as a surprise. After all, you may feel relaxed and even drowsy after a glass of wine or a mixed drink, right? Actually, any type of alcohol affects your sleep in a negative way. Alcohol metabolizes fairly quickly, so you end up waking up as it wears off. Studies show that pre-bedtime alcohol reduces nighttime sleep and increases nighttime wakefulness. As an added negative, it also makes snoring worse, so avoid that nightcap for your partner, as well as for yourself.
You're unlikely to start slamming back energy drinks like Red Bull or Five-Hour Energy right before bedtime — but be aware that some energy drinks can take up to eight hours to wear off for some people. That means that extra liquid energy you drank to get you through your afternoon at work might still be raging through your system as you try to fall asleep at night. If you're having sleep issues, stop caffeine at lunchtime, and see if it makes a difference.
Chips aren't just high-fat. They're greasy, as well. And studies show that greasy foods (along with sugary snacks and dairy products) before bedtime can actually lead to nightmares. That means that not only will you have trouble falling asleep thanks to digestive issues, but you might also wake up unpleasantly during the night. Save those Pringles and Kettle Chips for lunch or an afternoon snack instead.
Don't worry, though. Giving up these late-night snacks doesn't mean an end to your bedtime snack. Opt for healthy, sleep-friendly snacks instead. Good choices include chicken noodle soup, warm milk, chamomile tea, and fruit, such as bananas, kiwis and cherries, all of which can give you that comfy, full feeling without disturbing your sleep.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.