Health | Food | Did You Know

Want A Good Night's Sleep? Stop Eating These 4 Foods Before Bedtime

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Insomnia sucks. There's nothing worse than finally getting to bed after a long day and laying your head on your pillow but you just can't fall asleep.

While this doesn't necessarily mean that you're suffering from a sleep disorder, it could be a sign your body is sending about your physical health.

Sleep is essential for your overall well-being and there have been plenty of studies that support this fact. Sleep deprivation could lead to dementia and other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can also take a toll on your productivity and other aspects of your daily life.

Research shows that factors like stress, pre-existing medical conditions, age, environmental changes, medicine and stimulants can significantly impact your sleeping pattern. Another culprit that can affect the quality of your shut eye is food.

Eating before bed may not actually hinder your weight-loss goal but it could be the difference between a good and bad night's sleep. Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the National Sleep Foundation says that when it comes to sleep, food falls into two categories - "sleep promoters" and "sleep stealers."

Coffee is an obvious example of a "sleep stealer" for reasons that don't even need to be explained but you'd be surprised at how many more common foods are also classified as such.

Here's a list of 4 foods besides coffee you should never eat before getting under the sheets:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate especially the dark variety can be very healthy for you due to its antioxidant properties. However, when it comes to sleep, you should stay away from it. Dark chocolate generally contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which are stimulants that can keep you awake if you're sensitive.

Encyclopedia Britannica

2. Spicy Foods

Spicy and acid-forming foods can trigger indigestion and acid reflux which will keep you tossing and turning throughout the night. Even if you're among the lucky few who don't experience physical discomfort from eating spicier foods, it could take you longer to fall asleep. To make matters even worse, chowing down on a spicy meal before bed could bring on bad dreams. So it's wise to think twice before you reach for that late-night Indian or Chinese take-out.

Chicago Tribune

Continue to the next page to find out what the other "sleep stealers" are.

3. Fatty Foods

A high-fat diet throws off your body temperature which is crucial for a good night's sleep. Heavy and fatty foods like steaks, dairy and of course fried foods, take longer to digest and prevents your body's core temperature from cooling down, leading to restlessness and dream-heavy sleep.

Some experts also think that "the link may be due to the brain chemical hypocretin, a neurotransmitter that helps keep you awake and also plays a role in managing appetite."


4. Alcohol

You might want to take it easy on the nightcaps and cut back because they fall under the sleep steelers category. Contrary to popular belief that alcohol helps with counting sheep, experts warn that booze has some negative effects on some of the later stages of sleep.

According to one study, alcohol may be effective in knocking you out but it disrupts the stages of sleep which are linked to memory and motor skills which could trigger nightmares.

Will this information change your pre-bedtime habits? Let us know in the comments!

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.