Sleep deficiencies are an epidemic in the United States, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as sleep and wakefulness disorders affect up to 70 million adults. Getting enough sleep is important for energy and a positive mood during the day, as well as preventing risks linked with sleep loss, such as obesity and car crashes. In addition to formulating healthy sleep habits, such as keeping routine turn-in and wake-up times, avoiding certain foods near bedtime makes restful sleep more likely.
A high-fat diet may negatively influence your total sleep time, according to a Gatorade Sports Science Institute report published in 2013. Eating too much fat before bed can keep you from staying asleep, as you could experience heartburn, a burning feeling below or behind the breastbone caused by stomach acid moving upward. Fatty bedtime snacks increase your risk of disrupted sleep from symptom flareups. Foods to avoid include high-fat meats, fried foods and processed foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oil -- a major source of trans fats. These foods can cause or worsen inflammation.
While foods affect people differently, spicy foods commonly trigger heartburn and acid reflux, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, particularly if you lie down shortly after eating them. Spicy foods also make food move through your digestive system faster, which can lead to gassiness. To keep discomfort associated with gas, bloating and heartburn from interfering with sleep, avoid spicy fare, such as hot peppers, salsa and spicy curries before bed.
Although eating high-glycemic foods, such as refined grains, peeled potatoes or sweets, at least an hour before bed may improve sleep, reports the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, eating too much sugary fare immediately before bedtime reduces levels of the calming brain chemical serotonin. For this reason, Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic, recommends avoiding sugary foods such as cakes, pastries and cookies before sleep. Have a snack rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereal or brown-rice crackers instead. These foods increase serotonin levels and promote restfulness.
Caffeinated Foods and Drinks
As a stimulant, caffeine increases a sense of alertness and can disrupt sleep when consumed too close to bedtime. Caffeine stays fully active in your body for several hours after consumption, reports the National Sleep Foundation, taking about six hours to eliminate half of the caffeine you've consumed. While caffeine affects people differently, Kirkpatrick recommends that people with sleep problems avoid coffee after 2 p.m. Other caffeine sources include energy drinks, chocolate, many teas and coffee-flavored ice cream and candy. For enhanced sleep, have milk or a soothing herbal tea, such as chamomile or peppermint. Don't go overboard on liquids, however, or your bladder could keep you awake.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic
- National Sleep Foundation: Obesity & Sleep
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Sleep Hygiene
- Gatorade Sports Science Institute: Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Heartburn
- Linus Pauling Institute: The Two Faces of Inflammation
- University of Michigan Health System: Helpful Hints for Controlling Gas (Flatus)
- Cleveland Clinic: 5 Foods That Help You Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: Caffeine and Sleep