Food to avoid before bed to maintain a good night’s sleep

August 13, 2020 5 mins read
Food to avoid before bed to maintain a good night’s sleep

It can be tempting to tuck into a flavorful, spicy meal or indulge in some fine dark chocolate right before bedtime, but are you aware that these eats are on the food to avoid before bed’ list?

Eating before you call it a night might not sound like a big deal, especially because midnight snacks are said to fulfil a craving or help you forget about a bad break-up. Yet, dining on the wrong food ahead of sleep can lead to you tossing and turning or battling a nasty case of heartburn. This is because some foods can be rich and stimulating, effectively getting in the way of you having a peaceful night’s sleep.

We have pulled together a list of the foods to avoid before bedtime; some of them may surprise you!

5 Food types to avoid before sleep

It’s not just coffee and sugary foods that you should be steering clear of in the late evening. There are healthy foods that can also make going to sleep a nightmare.

1. Cheese and cured meats

It may be tough to resist a slice of cheddar or to chew on some salami. However, these types of foods are not going to help you sleep better. Aged cheese, brie, gouda, blue cheese, bacon, sausage, ham, and other cured meats contain large amounts of an amino acid called tyramine, which creates a trigger for being alert instead of winding down. Tyramine can also give you vivid dreams, making it difficult for you to sleep well throughout the night.

2. Spicy food

If you plan to hit the pillow and sink into a deep sleep, then skip the chilli. Spicy meals can keep you up at night because of indigestion, a raised body temperature, increased blood circulation, and heartburn. All these bodily functions can impair your sleep, affecting sleep quality, and making it almost impossible to gain restful sleep.

3. Dark chocolate

Saying no to a slab of dark chocolate before bedtime is something you may have to get accustomed to doing. Dark chocolate is filled with caffeine and amino acids, which could stimulate you, keeping you awake instead of sleepy and ready for bed.

4. Cruciferous vegetables

The cruciferous family, which consists of vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale, are healthy additions that you should have in your diet. Eating them before bedtime, however, is not a wise decision because they take longer to digest and can keep you up at night. Try to eat these vegetables earlier during the day, for breakfast or lunch, and limit your intake to a snack portion in the evening.

5. Red meat

Eating red meat regularly before bedtime can influence your sleeping patterns as you can battle to drift off into a blissful sleep. The proteins and acids in red meat are complex molecules and take time to break down in the digestive system, particularly overnight. The effect is that you can experience indigestion, acid reflux, or struggle to sleep as the body works overtime to digest your food.

Other things to avoid before bed:

  • Alcohol. Liquor acts as a sedative, which can help you fall asleep for a while, but it reduces the time you spend in rapid eye movement sleep (REM), which is necessary for creating memories, learning, and influences mood. It can also disturb your sleep cycle as you may wake up frequently throughout the night, so it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol before bed.
  • Caffeine. Studies have shown that coffee is such a powerful stimulant that when taken six hours before bed, it can reduce the amount of time you spend sleeping by one full hour!
  • Too much water. Drinking too much water will have you making frequent trips to the bathroom, disturbing your chance of sleeping well through the night.

Reasons to avoid eating before bed

Eating right before you go to bed should be avoided when possible. This allows your body time to start digesting food properly before it begins slowing down its functions to prepare for sleep. Other reasons include:

Weight gain

The rate at which you burn calories slows down in the evening, so if you were to have a large meal, it would take time to go through the digestion process, and ultimately, this would be stored as fat in the body, causing weight gain. To combat piling on the pounds, try eating before 8pm to give your body enough time to begin and end the digestion process.

Acid reflux

Lying horizontally after a big meal can lead to acid reflux/indigestion as the backflow of acid from the stomach can move through the oesophagus, reaching your throat and resulting in a choking sensation. This uncomfortable feeling can disrupt your sleep and make it difficult for you to get back to sleep again.

Unhealthy choices

Comfort eating dictates that even at odd hours or before bedtime, we are likely to seek out an unhealthy and sugary snack to make ourselves feel better. Due to the high fat and sugar content of the snack, the likelihood of you sleeping well is reduced, and this can lead to weight gain.

So what should you eat before bed?

Now that we’ve looked at food that is high on the ‘what not to eat before bed’ list, it’s essential to discover which foods you can enjoy that will help you sleep better. Bananas are filled with magnesium, a super vitamin that relaxes the muscles and contains serotonin and melatonin, all feel-good hormones which aid in sleep.

Honey isn’t only good for helping with flu and colds; it is great for stimulating the body’s release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, leading to a night of peace and relaxation. Almonds and turkey share a key ingredient in promoting healthy sleep – they contain tryptophan, decreasing muscle movements, and balances out your heart rate.

Oats may be a popular breakfast meal, but a bowl in the evening can help you to sleep well as these grains contain minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, which cause the pineal gland to release melatonin, which naturally gets you to drift off faster and to enjoy quality, improved sleep.