There are certain foods that everyone knows will keep you awake, such as coffee. But you may be surprised to know how some ingredients can affect your sleep without you even realizing. If you know about foods that affect your sleep, you’re more likely to start avoiding them before trying other remedies. If you learn which foods to avoid for better sleep you can start at home. It’s easy to change your eating habits at home if it means you can get those elusive hours of sleep sooner.
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Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of eating foods we shouldn’t. Whether you’re trying to be healthy, lose weight or get a better night’s sleep there are things we all do wrong. But if you’re suffering from insomnia you’ll know how bad it can be. If you can change a few eating habits (and you don’t need to go without) then it’s worth a try.
Can Food Eliminate Insomnia?
Most people start by avoiding bad sleep foods but if you’ve experience insomnia for weeks or months then you’ll probably need to do more than just address your food. However, food is a great place to start because you can do it yourself.
If you learn which foods to avoid for better sleep it is best to avoid all of them. However, if you really can’t avoid them all, then try to avoid two or three of them and build on this.
Use a food journal and start by writing a list of foods to avoid for better sleep. At the beginning you’ll need to remind yourself of what they are or what time of day to avoid them. And if you need to substitute your diet with foods that help you to sleep then take a look at all the details you need here.
Foods to Avoid for Better Sleep – Where to Start
It’s inevitable that there will be times that you will crave something to eat before falling asleep. Whether lying down to indulge in a nap or just before settling down for the night, your stomach will rumble in a request for something that will suppress its cravings.
While most experts will warn you to stay away from food at least two to three hours before going to bed, the reality is that your stomach simply will not entirely understand your efforts to avoid food. Ultimately, you will cave into those pesky growls.
The food you choose will determine the number of hours you sleep each night and yes, even the quality of sleep you secure. Not sure where to start? The key is to gain an awareness for what foods to avoid and from there, you can choose wisely.
Here are the foods to avoid for better sleep. They can delay sleep as well as interrupt your sleep.
1. Foods that Contain Caffeine
Avoiding foods that contain caffeine should be a no-brainer, but it might surprise you to know that this goes deeper than your basic cup of coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), energy drink, or diet soda in a bottle.
Just a tiny helping of 10 milligrams can wreck your chances of securing a good night’s rest. Dark chocolate and even chocolate ice cream can provide an unexpected boost of energy.
An average cup of coffee contains 95 milligrams of caffeine and a cup of decaf coffee can contain around 10 milligrams (but some go as low as 2mg and some decaf contains 25mg).
When to stop drinking coffee?
Some nutritionists recommend you stop drinking coffee at least 6 hours before bedtime. Other experts recommend a time of the day, such as 2pm or 3pm. But this varies for each person. Everyone metabolizes caffeine at a different rate and what works for one may not work for another.
You really need to test it yourself. Again, use a food diary and record how you feel when you stop drinking coffee at 3pm. Did you get a better night’s sleep? Did you fall asleep faster?
Some people try giving up coffee altogether. If you’re desperate to overcome sleep deprivation you may want to try this. But take it slowly.
Perhaps start by avoiding it on one day of the weekend and see how you cope. But if you wake up tired and you need to drive to work that morning, you really should have the morning coffee that you’re used to. You want to stay alert when you’re driving.
2. High-Fat and Spicy Foods
Stay away from those high fat foods just before bedtime. Aside from the dark cloud of weight gain, these foods can also re-activate digestion in your gut which may send you to the bathroom, interrupting your sleep cycle. You should think about foods to avoid for better sleep not only for getting to sleep faster, but for staying asleep longer. Quality of sleep is just as important.
Your taste buds may love a good spicy cuisine, but if you are susceptible to heartburn, you can kiss your good night’s sleep goodbye.
One thing you can do to avoid the effects of a heavy spicy meal is to ensure you indulge a minimum of 4 hours before climbing into bed. You may need longer to stop the effects on sleep.
To find out which foods to avoid for better sleep you may need to test spicy foods by recording them in a food journal. Spicy foods vary a lot in ingredients and some may result in a disruption to sleep while others may be okay.
While protein is a nice filler during daytime hours, it is not a good choice to consume anything in this category before bedtime. This is because it can inadvertently stimulate your brain cells.
Protein contains tyrosine, an amino acid which promotes brain activity (WebMD). While this can be useful during the day when you need to achieve more and keep your energy levels up, it works against you when we’re trying to sleep at night.
4. Refined Sugars and Carbohydrates
Refined sugars and carbohydrates are best ingested during morning hours for a reason and given their overall impact to the body including but not limited to insulin resistance, it’s no wonder that these foods may not be the best meals or snacks to consume just before bedtime.
Psychology Today points out that these foods can cause a spike in adrenaline levels making it difficult to fall asleep. This combined with the roller coaster effect of insulin levels, it’s no wonder that some people do not fare well with refined sugars and carbohydrates before getting to sleep.
So if you find it convenient to grab a snack full of refined sugars and carbohydrates in the evening, it’s worth changing your habits. Find a more sleep-inducing snack to replace it.
Alcohol is a tricky beast. While that glass of wine might feel relaxing and help to make you drowsy, it may be disrupting some of the more critical stages of sleep that help you to feel rested.
According to Sleep.org, alcohol can affect the quality of sleep you get each night causing you to wake up in the middle of the night. Although alcohol triggers a rapid onset of sleep due to the increased production of adenosine, a chemical which induces sleep, this same chemical rapidly subsides, and your body responds in kind by waking, giving you a false sense of feeling rested.
There you have it! What you eat or drink, determines your ability to sleep. These are all tips to get you started. Unsure if you’re eating habits are keeping you up at night? Remember to use a food journal.
Keep a journal of what you eat for one week and track your sleep experience each night including how long it takes to fall asleep, how long you can sleep, how rested your feel upon waking, and the number of hours you sleep in total each day. Make changes where you see fit!
It may seem hard to change your diet but once you’re aware of the foods to avoid for better sleep you’ll find it easier to do on a daily basis. Take one day at a time and see if you notice an improvement over the next week to several weeks.