Want to sleep better? You’ll Want to Avoid These One Foods, According to Sleep Experts

Your takeout order may never be the same.

It’s no secret that sleep issues are one of the most common health problems. In fact, 1 in 3 adults in the US aren’t getting enough sleep. Yikes.

While there are many different causes of a poor night’s sleep—stress, anxiety and other medical conditions—sleep experts agree that diet plays a major role. Here’s what that means.

How Diet Affects Sleep

Your diet can have a significant impact on your quality of sleep, stresses the sleep psychologist Dr. Katherine Hall, Ph.D.

“Eating large or heavy meals too close to bedtime can lead to digestion, heartburn or other digestive issues that can disrupt your sleep,” she explains.

After a large meal, our bodies have to work to process the food, and our heart rate and metabolism remain elevated. This is the opposite of the restful effect desired when sleeping, he says Dr. Alex Dimitriu, MD, who is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD.

“Experimenting with various sleep trackers, I have consistently found my heart rate to be elevated well into the night after a big meal,” Dr. Dimitriu adds.

Drinking too much caffeine too close to bedtime can also make it difficult to get a good night’s rest, as it can act as a stimulator and disrupt your natural sleep cycle, Dr. Hallstates.

Additionally, foods that are high in sugar and fat can cause spikes in energy levels, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

Related: Here’s Exactly How Many Hours of Sleep You Really Need Every Night, According to Experts

The Food to Avoid for a Good Night’s Sleep

What food is best to avoid before bed if you want to sleep well? Spicy food like curry and chili. This is because it can lead to digestive issues and interfere with your sleep. Hall says. It can also cause heartburn, bloating and discomfort—which can make it more difficult to relax and fall asleep, as well as disrupt your sleep quality throughout the night, Dr. Hall explains.

Also, spicy foods contain capsaicin, which can cause a rise in body temperature. A higher body temperature can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Eating heavy meals before bed is generally not recommended, so avoiding overly spicy, heavy dishes is one way to ensure you get the restful sleep your body needs.

Related: How a Good Night’s Sleep Helps You Live Longer

Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better

To ensure a good night’s rest, it’s important to focus on eating healthy foods throughout the day. Certain foods that are rich in nutrients can help promote better sleep.

For instance, foods high in magnesium, such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains and nuts help may be beneficial for those who have difficulty sleeping, as magnesium regulates hormones that synchronize the sleep cycle, Dr. Hallstates.

Additionally, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates can also help keep your energy levels steady throughout the day and support healthy sleep patterns at night.

Although research is limited, some other foods may be beneficial for sleep as well, Dr. Dimitriu explains. These include fatty fish, kiwi, cherries and milk.

The researchers who found these foods beneficial also noted that “some foods, such as milk products, fish, fruit and vegetables, also show sleep-promoting effects, but studies have been too diverse, short and small to lead to firm conclusions.”

Long story short: Avoid those spicy foods before bedtime. And if you want to improve your overall sleep quality, make sure to eat a healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense diet.

Next up: Time for a Wake-Up Call? 10 Sleep Myths Debunked!

Sources

  • Dr. Katherine Hall, PhD, sleep psychologist

  • Alex Dimitriu, MD, double board-certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD

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