You Sleep How You Eat: Foods That Make it Harder to Sleep

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | October 14, 2016

If you are one of the millions of North Americans who just cannot seem to get enough quality shut-eye, then you may want to consider what foods you are putting into your body in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Now, fret not, we are not about to tell you to refrain from eating anything before going to bed. We get it - people have busy lives, and sometimes your schedule might be such that you get home late and just need to have a bite to eat before your head hits the pillow. However, there are certain foods that should be considered no-no’s in the evening – especially if you are prone to experiencing difficulty sleeping.

Here are six foods that you should cut from your evening routine:

1. Caffeinated Anything

This may sound obvious to some, but others might not realize how sensitive to caffeine they actually are.  Drinking coffee, tea or soda can have you lying awake. The effects of caffeine can last between 8 and 14 hours, so keep this in mind before you order that latte.

2. Alcohol

That glass of wine you have in the evening to help wind down is not doing you any favours. Sure, it may make you feel sleepy at first, but it can actually interfere with the quality of your sleep by adversely affecting the part of the brain that regulates sleep.[i] 

3. Pizza

Pizza seems to be a popular late night snack these days, but the combination of fatty cheese and acidic tomato sauce could be double jeopardy to a good night’s rest. When you eat a fatty meal or snack, your digestive system has to work harder to process it. One study found that consuming too many fatty foods interfered with sleep quality and led to more nighttime wakefulness. [ii]

The acidic sauce on pizza can also be a problem for those prone to heartburn, causing them difficulty in falling or staying asleep.

4. Spicy Food

You may love spicy Mexican or Asian dishes – but they may not love you back if you consume them too close to bedtime. Not only is there the possibility of heartburn, but these foods also have thermogenic properties – meaning they warm up your core body temperature.

Since your core temperature is supposed to drop before drifting off to sleep, a rise in temperature could be a signal to your body that it is time to wake up instead.

5. Peppermint

If you are at all prone to heartburn, you will want to take those mints off the pillows. While many people may think a mint or two is a good way to freshen their breath after dinner, peppermint can trigger heartburn and make it difficult to sleep.

6. Juice

Many people consider juice to be a healthier alternative to soda, but fruit juice actually contains a lot of natural sugars that can keep you awake. The acidity of citrus juice can be a problem for those with stomach problems or sensitive bladders. Instead, consider eating a whole piece of fruit – it contains less sugar content and the fibre will help the sugar absorb more slowly.