A poor sleep routine can add to your physical and mental health worries. It can cause stress and anxiety to rise and increase your risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses. To help, we have created this quick guide to food.
Is it bad to eat before bed? Not necessarily, but there are definitely foods to avoid before heading to the land of nod. Foods that have stimulant properties, ingredients difficult to digest and dishes with sugar or spice are perhaps best avoided.
How long before bed should you stop eating? Science tells us that we need three hours between meals and total rest but we know you’ll be tempted by a late snack sometimes. It’s important you choose something healthy and authentic. Check out Casaverde’s Latin range for example.
If you’re having trouble sleeping there are, however, some obvious candidates to cut out of your evening plans.
What Not To Eat Before Bed
Why does eating before bed affect sleep? There are a number of reasons. Firstly, the muscles that are involved in processing food have to keep working long after we’ve taken the last bite. Foods difficult to digest make them work harder and will keep us awake longer. Natural stimulants, like sugar and caffeine, will keep our brains buzzing. Finally, any foods that come with a high risk of uncomfortable indigestion need to be cut out too.
Are you wondering what foods keep you awake? Don’t panic, we have picked out 10 of the worst offenders below.
Ice Cream & Other Dairy Desserts
Reasons not to eat late at night include the ‘full’ feeling that comes from heavy, fatty and hard-to-digest food. Ice cream and other dairy-based desserts are definitely in that category, sadly. They are typically full of sugar too so will provide a burst of energy just when you don’t need it. You can replace them with natural yogurt which is much easier for your body to handle.
Grapefruit & Other Acidic Fruits
Foods to avoid before bed include those with acidic properties. Grapefruit and similar fruits come with a significant risk of heartburn and indigestion that is made worse by lying down. Although they are natural, grapefruit and its friends are high in sugar, so they are also likely to create a surge in energy more suited to the morning, than the evening.
One of the benefits of drying fruit is maximising taste. However, sadly for those fancying a midnight snack, dried fruits also have maximum sugar. Eating any sugar before bed, even from a natural source, will give you an energy rush just at the wrong time. If you do need your fill of natural goodness at night, keep your fruit fresh and, as above, avoid anything too acidic.
Foods that cause insomnia are often linked to particular aspects of our brain chemistry. Tomatoes, for example, are packed full of tyramine. Tyramine is an amino acid that triggers the brain to release the norepinephrine stimulant, noradrenaline. This is associated with our ‘fight or flight’ response rather than relaxation and rest.
If you ask many people what foods keep you awake, they are likely to answer cheese. Like all old wives’ tales, though, the idea that eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares holds some truth. Like the humble tomato, cheese is a source of the stimulant, norepinephrine which is linked to anxiety. Cheese is also fatty and hard to digest. Indigestion might give you a restless night.
High-sugar and high-fat foods are a no-no before bedtime. Junk food is often deliberately designed to give you a blood sugar spike that might feel great at lunchtime. At night, however, it will not help you sleep. Fatty food can cause digestive issues too. Your body has to work overtime to break down processed ingredients. All-in-all it is not a great recipe for sleep.
It might be a surprise to see alcohol on this list. We are all, no doubt, aware of its reputation for making us drowsy. You might have nodded off after a few glasses of wine, yourself. The problem with alcohol-induced sleep is it stays fitful and unhealthy. Under the influence of alcohol, sleepers may never quite reach full, restful Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
Caffeine is one of our most widely-recoginsable stimulants. It mimics the natural compound adenosine that is involved in releasing the body’s feel-good hormones dopamine and adrenaline. The jolt of energy it provides can have an impact for up to six hours. Heavy daily coffee drinkers might see a significant impact on their sleep patterns. Switching to decaffeinated coffee might be the answer, but only if you cut out fatty cream and sugar too.
It is perhaps a little-known fact that chocolate naturally contains caffeine. It is in much smaller amounts than coffee, but there’s still enough to affect your sleep. The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine each tasty morsel contains. Bitter chocolate can be hard to digest too, which means eating it before bed might be asking your body to do a little too much work to sleep.
Spicy or hot peppery foods can make your digestion system work in overdrive. This comes with a high risk of indigestion and reflux symptoms which, as with other acidic foods, may disturb your sleep. Eating spicy foods can also raise your core body temperature too. If this happens just before you hit the sack, it can negatively affect sleep.
Foods That Do Help With Sleep
If you’re worried about your sleep, you might want to read our companion blog on the best foods for a good night’s sleep. Fresh fish, poultry and white rice will help you nod off. As will nuts and bananas, whole grains and yogurt. There are plenty of healthier alternatives to the bad foods we’ve shared here. There’s absolutely no need to go hungry, even if you fancy a midnight snack.