While everyone knows that caffeine can disrupt your sleep – that’s not the only food and drink that could be having an adverse effect.
For instance, having a big meal just before bedtime can be difficult to digest and lead to heartburn and acid reflux, according to Carrie Gabriel, RD.
She told Everyday Health: “People with a more chronic form of acid reflux known as gastrointestinal reflux disorder, or GERD, can have more issues with sleeping.”
Acid reflux is when the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus malfunctions, allowing food in the stomach to flow back up and lying down after a big meal, as well as certain types of foods, can make the condition worse.
Adults need to get at least seven hours of sleep a night for optimum health and well-being, according to a recommendation from the CDC in the US.
A lack of sleep not only can leave people feeling tired and cranky but chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a number of serious health issues, including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, depression and diabetes, according to a study published in May 2017 in Nature and Science of Sleep.
It might be worth seeing if your diet could be interfering with the amount of sleep you getting.
It’s worth noting though that everyone’s bodies differ and foods that affect you might not impact someone else.
Gabriel, along with other dietitians say the following foods are the most common culprits that can mess up your sleep.
Overly processed junk food certainly won’t do your sleep any favours.
Pizza though is particularly bad as it has a double whammy – it is high in saturated fat and sodium.
Gabriel said: “Foods that are higher in saturated fat should be avoided at night – for example, butter, ice cream, and fried foods like french fries.”
A small study published in January 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that 26 normal-weight adults who usually slept between seven and nine hours a night who ate saturated fat throughout the day led to lighter and “less restorative” sleep.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You From Label to Table, said: “Many highly processed foods are also salty, which could cause you to wake up during the night to reach for something to drink.”
According to the American Heart Association, a single slice of pepperoni pizza has as much as a third of the sodium you need in a day.
Excessive amounts of sugar has been linked to a number of health problems – including diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease, but it can also make sleep more difficult.
While culprits such as chocolate, doughnuts, pies, desserts and soda before bed may be well known, smoothies may seem like a healthy snack to have.
The BMJ Open published research in March 2016 which examined beverages marketed to kids in the UK and discovered that packaged smoothie products averaged even more sugar per serving (around two and a half teaspoons) than juice.
Around 40 per cent of the products tested were found to contain nearly four teaspoons of sugar.
Taub-Dix said: “Sugar plays a role in many of our health woes, so it’s probably not surprising to see it come up on a list of foods to avoid at bedtime.”
She added that refined sugars can induce rapid fluctuations in your blood-glucose levels, which can spike adrenaline and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Gabriel added: “If you are hungry before bed, a complex carbohydrate or protein is a better choice, like whole-wheat toast or a banana with Greek yogurt.
“Try eating an open-faced peanut butter or almond butter sandwich on whole-grain bread.
“Almond or peanut butter are both high in protein and healthy, unsaturated fat, while whole-wheat bread offers fibre and more complex carbohydrates than white bread, keeping your blood-sugar levels stable while you sleep.”
Bananas are a good choice before bedtime as they have high levels of potassium, magnesium and fibre, all of which were found to help sound sleep, according to a study published in February 2019 in the journal Cureus.
While the protein in cheese provides tryptophan, an amino acid that may aid in relaxation and sleep, Gabriel said not all cheeses are soporific.
Strong or aged cheeses such as cheddar, Gruyère, and Parmesan contain high amounts of the amino acid tyramine, which increases heart rate, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Gabriel said: “If you are looking for something creamy before bedtime, try some almond butter on a few crackers instead.”
Those foods contain magnesium, which research indicates may help ease insomnia.
Hot, spicy foods can cause acid reflux.
Taub-Dix said: “Acid reflux is more likely to occur during sleep when we’re lying down, at which time a mix of stomach acid and foods being digested can flow back up through the esophagus.
“Many people find that eating spicy foods can cause this effect during the day, let alone at bedtime, when the negative impact can be compounded.”
Anyone having spicy foods for dinner should wait three hours before going to bed to avoid worsening any potential acid reflux that might result from lying down.
Gabriel said: “This allows digestion to occur and the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine.
“This may prevent problems like heartburn at night and even insomnia. The same goes for spicy food.”
Some research shows that foods containing capsaicin, a compound responsible for spice’s heat, may interfere with sleep by raising body temperature.