From early birds to night owls, we can all agree that when we finally lay our heads on the pillow we’d like to actually go to sleep, thank you. Nothing is more annoying than insomnia, and evidence is piling up that sleep is essential for good health. Although the research is a bit spotty when it comes to which foods help or harm sleep, certain items consumed right before bedtime are more likely to be sleep promoters while others may be sleep stealers. We all know that going to bed on a full stomach can do more harm than good, but if you must eat late at night, these are the foods you should avoid. Here’s a list of potential bad guys when it comes to getting some shut-eye.
1. Red Meats
Any food that’s high in protein such as steak and lamb digest much slower than fresh fruits and vegetables. As your mind prepares to go into sleep mode, your body will be working hard to digest all that protein. If you’re eating late at night, stick to fresh produce and up your protein intake during the day.
2. Cakes and Doughnuts
Sweet, fatty desserts like cakes and doughnuts are digested at a much slower rate than other foods. Avoid sugary snacks before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep. If you must have something sweet before bed, try something like coconut flakes or dried mango.
3. Sweet Cereal
Digging in to a bowl of cereal may seem like it’s better than a burger, but with all that sugar-packed cereal giving your blood sugar a roller coaster ride, you’ll be storing it all as fat as you sleep. Try a bowl of popcorn instead – and not the caramel-covered one!
Yes, it’s not technically food, but is definitely an important one to remember. You might think that alcohol will send you straight to sleep but in fact, it has a dehydrating effect on the body. This lack of water will slow down all the good restorative work your body would otherwise do while you’re asleep. If you must have an occasional drink before bed, ensure you’re drinking plenty of water too. One study found that a glass of bourbon or vodka mixed with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the amount of time women spent awake during the night by 15 minutes. It also reduced nightly sleep time by 19 minutes and diminished quality of sleep. If you don’t refrain from alcohol for our own benefit, do it for your mate. Alcohol makes snoring worse.
It might sound like an obvious one but there’s a good reason people say you should stay away from coffee at night. And while it’s technically a drink and not a food, the caffeine in coffee, fizzy drinks like cola and believe it or not, chocolate, will stimulate your nervous system and keep you awake at night. If you must have a hot drink before bed, try something a little more soothing – herbal teas like chamomile are great.
6. Ice Cream
Having a girls night in? Having a small bowl of low-fat yogurt or milk before bed won’t do any harm. But if you have a giant bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, you can forget about getting a good night’s sleep. Ice cream contains high amounts of fat which is digested at a slow rate. It also contains a lot of sugar which can keep you up for long.
Have the oatmeal in the morning, not before bed. Oatmeal, bran buds and barley are all high in soluble fibre, which again can slow down digestion and cause gas.
8. Bacon cheeseburger
The stratospheric fat content of this particular fast food is guaranteed to be a sleep killer. Fat stimulates the production of acid in the stomach, which can spill up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Fatty foods can also loosen the lower esophageal sphincter, the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, making it even easier for acid to get in all the wrong places.