7 Foods to Stop Eating if You Have Trouble Sleeping

There are lots of things that can affect your quality of sleep from emotional distress to bodily ills such as diabetes, kidney disease, or heartburn.

Whatever the cause, missing out on enough slumber can easily make you cranky and sluggish during the day. If it goes on for too long, your odds for things like heart attack, stroke, neurological disorders, and high blood pressure skyrocket.

So sleep is nothing to mess around with. Before heavy duty sleep aids, the first place to look is at your diet. Everyone knows that consuming caffeine before bed is a recipe for disaster, so skip the coffee or tea. But you may not have realized that certain healthy foods can also keep you up all night.

What we eat before bed has particular influence on our quality of sleep, but studies show that it also affects what we choose to eat the next day. An overall balanced diet is critical to maintaining a healthy sleep pattern, but there are a few healthy foods that ought to be consumed earlier in the day, as well as some not-so-healthy indulgences that may be behind your insomnia. Here are 7 potential dietary culprits.

7. Citrus

Fruit is generally a healthy choice, and dieticians recommend you have some with every meal. But citrus in particular could be disturbing your slumber because it is highly acidic. That can lead to heartburn or painful gastrointestinal reflux disease.

Citrus fruit is also high in sugar, which can give you a boost of energy when you least need it. Eat citrus in the morning with breakfast, and switch to lower-sugar, lower-acid fruits as the day progresses. Good late-day fruits include figs, raisins, grapes, apples, kiwi, and papaya.

6. Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is packed with nutrition. It should absolutely be a regular part of your diet. However, broccoli also contains a lot of fiber which can take a long time to digest.

In fact, all cruciferous veggies are notorious for causing gas during digestion; other examples include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens. Snacking on any of these before bed is likely to keep you up.

5. Celery

If your sleeplessness has something to do with jumping up to go pee multiple times per night, you may want to avoid eating celery before bed.

Celery contains a lot of water, so even if you stop drinking after dinner, snacking on celery can still fill your bladder. The same holds true for other foods that are high in water, such as watermelon, cucumber, and iceberg lettuce.

4. Meat

Meat, especially red meat, contains a lot of protein and fat. Therefore, it takes a long time to digest and could keep you awake. It’s okay to eat meat for dinner, but it’s best to avoid it for your bedtime snack.

If you are really struggling to drop off every night, you may want to go further and stick to smaller portions of lean meat at dinnertime, such as turkey and chicken breast, or vegetarian sources of protein, like yogurt and spinach.

Any source of protein will take longer to digest and may not be good before bed, but note that red meat is an especially heavy source due to its fat content. Therefore, it is more likely to cause indigestion or stomach cramps upon lying down.

3. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are contraindicated before bed simply because they can cause stomach discomfort and heartburn. Heartburn tends to get worse when you lie down because that stomach acid pools around the esophagus. However, there are some studies that indicate that spicy food before bed can increase the incidence of nightmares!

Poor sleep isn’t always a function of struggling to fall asleep. Frequent waking throughout the night also steals critical hours of rest.

Nightmares are simply dreams with negative emotions attached, but the resulting fight-or-flight response of the body is much more likely to wake us up than a happy dream.

2. Dessert

A nice little sweet treat after a long day of good dietary behavior seems like the perfect reward. Unfortunately, the last thing you want to do before going to bed is to spike your blood sugar.

Eating your dessert right before bedtime is likely to make you feel alert and energized despite the late hour.

Especially avoid chocolate before bed, as it contains caffeine as well as sugar. But that’s not all. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, a stimulant that increases heart rate and may contribute to sleeplessness.

1. Fast Food

If we’ve gotten all the way to bedtime and are still hungry, fast food cravings may kick in because the brain is looking for something to make it feel good ASAP. Unfortunately, fast food and other greasy snacks are hard for the body to digest and can often lead to heartburn.

The more fat in your meal, the more stomach acid and gas you’ll produce. Pain obviously makes sleep especially challenging. If you have already indulged, try lying on your left side to reduce the amount of acid that backs up into your esophagus.

Despite all of the forgoing advice, you don’t have to go to bed hungry in order to sleep well. In fact, being hungry at bedtime can also negatively affect your slumber. The body still needs energy to fuel the processes that occur during rest, and hunger pangs can be painful, too.

The trick is to stick to a small snack rather than a meal-sized portion. Good choices include a spoonful of peanut butter, a sliced apple, a scrambled egg, or a bowl of air-popped popcorn. Now get to bed!