Trouble sleeping? It could be what you’re eating or drinking

Woman biting on a piece of chocolate

What you eat or drink in the evening could be the reason you’re waking frequently or having difficulty falling asleep.

A cup of coffee before bed might be an obvious wrong choice, but did you realize your evening cocktail could be causing your disrupted sleep?

Alcohol might help trigger deep sleep in the beginning of the night. However, the second half of your slumber will likely be more interrupted and filled with strange dreams. Drinking alcohol triggers frequent wakeups and missing out on deep-sleep cycles. If you enjoy a drink in the evening, consider pairing it with dinner.

Food and drink that can disrupt your sleep

1 Caffeine in the afternoon

It can take 6-8 hours for your body to process and eliminate the caffeine you drink in one sitting. Besides contributing to insomnia, caffeine is a stimulant that can also increase feelings of nervousness.

2 High-fat foods at night

Large amounts of fat slow down digestion and can cause heartburn, leaving you feeling uncomfortable, which can interfere with quality sleep. There’s also research to suggest that consuming high-fat foods later in the day can disrupt circadian rhythms, leading to fragmented sleep.

3 Spicy foods at dinner or late at night

Spicy foods can be a trigger for indigestion and heartburn.

4 High-sugar foods at night

Sugar digests rapidly in your body, causing quick spikes in your blood sugar. These blood sugar spikes could throw off some of your sleep hormones, leading to less restful sleep.

5 Too much chocolate near bedtime

Eating an entire chocolate bar isn’t nearly as potent as a cup of coffee when it comes to caffeine, but it could mean you’re consuming as much caffeine as a can of soda. Try limiting yourself to just one square of dark chocolate close to bedtime.

The timing of your last meal before bed is really important. Avoid eating two to three hours before going to sleep. Many people skimp on their meals and snacks throughout the day to save calories for a more indulgent meal in the evening, but this can backfire and leave you feeling stuffed. It also increases the chance of you getting heartburn or indigestion.

It’s better to spread your calories more evenly throughout the day, then take your time and savor the evening meal to avoid overeating.

If you feel like you need something to eat and it’s late, opt for a light snack that might help promote relaxation and a good night’s sleep. Foods that are high in magnesium or tryptophan can help you relax.

Magnesium-rich foods: dark chocolate, avocado, pumpkin seeds, edamame, almonds, non-fat yogurt, banana.

Tryptophan-rich foods: turkey, milk, oatmeal, cottage cheese, peanut butter.

Going to sleep a bit hungry?

Plan ahead and eat on a regular schedule throughout the day to avoid late-evening hunger. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water throughout the day to avoid cravings at night. Often, the impulse to eat late at night is more related to boredom or habitual eating. If you’re truly hungry, then have a light snack with protein and fiber, such as a non-fat yogurt with berries.

Having the same evening routine — one aimed at helping you relax — can also help you get a solid night’s sleep. Don’t read the news. Don’t scroll Twitter. Try making tea, such as a chamomile or sleepy-time tea that will trigger calm. The process of making and then sipping on herbal, non-caffeinated tea can send cues to your mind and body that it’s time to wind down.

Take the first steps to a healthier lifestyle

Ditch the fads and start taking real steps to improving your health with the nutrition and dietary experts from Ohio State.

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