7 Worst Foods And Drinks To Have Before Bed

Unless you want to be up watching Netflix at 3 a.m.

September 12, 2016
cant fall asleep
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Hey you, sleepyhead, you might be able to blame your diet for those bags under your eyes. If you have trouble drifting off or find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night, chances are food and drinks might have played a factor, says Marie Spano, R.D., a sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks. Nix noshing on these troublemakers to catch up on your Zzz’s.

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Duh, but research from the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders & Research Center in Detroit suggests the sleep-busting effects of caffeine linger a lot longer than previously thought. Consuming the stimulant up to six hours before bedtime shortens your slumber by an hour and messes with the soundness of your sleep too, the study found.

So that Starbucks double-espresso is off-limits starting in the late afternoon. And it might even be earlier for you: “Some medications—like birth-control pills and certain antidepressants—slow down your body’s metabolism of caffeine,” says Spano. “So if you’re taking them, you might want to limit your caffeine consumption to the morning only.” Some energy drinks, tea, soda, and even—sigh—dark chocolate contain sleep-sabotaging amounts of the stimulant, too. 

Related: The Secret To 90 More Minutes Of Sleep

salsa with chips
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Salsa & Tortilla Chips

Spicy, fried, and acidic—a triple whammy for causing middle-of-the-night heartburn attacks in those prone to the condition. Heartburn sufferers should avoid eating anything two hours before bed, but the tomatoes, vinegar, and jalapeño in salsa and the oil in chips are particularly pesky reflux triggers. If you really need your chip fix before bed, pair baked tortilla chips (they have less oil) with mild guacamole. 

ice cream
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Ice Cream

A pint of your favorite flavor may be the ultimate before-bed comfort food, but its high fat and sugar content may disrupt your sleep. “If you really want a high-fat meal or snack, it’s best to have it at least three hours before bed,” says Spano. “In fact, the morning is preferable.” (Although we’re definitely not suggesting you have ice cream for breakfast.) The sugar in ice cream also leads to erratic blood sugar levels throughout the night, which could cause you to wake up, says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of From Fatigued to Fantastic. If you’re hungry at night, he suggests reaching for a protein-rich food such as a hard-boiled egg or a handful of nuts. (You can also use less sugar when you make your how ice cream; here's how.)    

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A glass of Chardonnay may help relax you enough to fall asleep, but your shut-eye is likely to be short-lived: A study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that drinking alcohol—craft beer and mixed drink fans, this applies to you, too—interferes with the body’s internal timer that affects sleeping and waking. As a result, the researchers noted that even one serving of alcohol increases your chances of waking up in the middle of night. Other research found that alcohol may alter your breathing patterns, decreasing the amount of time you spend in deep sleep. So even if you do end up with the full eight hours, you might not feel as refreshed. 

chinese takeout
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Lo Mein

If you’re craving late-night Chinese takeout, order a dish with brown rice rather than lo mien. One Japanese study found that those who ate noodle dishes before bed had more trouble both falling and staying asleep than those who ate meals with rice. The researchers speculate the glycemic index of the foods made the difference—high glycemic rice keeps blood sugar steady while lower-glycemic noodles trigger spikes that may disturb sleep. 

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If you’re prone to waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, you might want to avoid melon before bed. They’re mostly water, and eating 2 cups of melon is the equivalent of drinking about 11 ounces of liquid. It’s also high in potassium, which encourages your body to release water. Opt for drier snacks—like whole-grain crackers—before you hit the sack.

Related: 12 Fruits And Vegetables That Won’t Go Bad

grilled cheese
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Cheddar Cheese

Whether it’s in your grilled cheese or on top of a late-night burrito, cheddar and other aged cheeses may cause sleep trouble, because they’re rich in tyramine, an amino acid that triggers the brain to release a stimulant that delays rest. Need a little cheese before bed? Cream cheese, ricotta, and cottage cheese are tyramine-free.