The Food and Drink You Shouldn't Consume Before Bed
We've all been there: tossing and turning in bed, staring at the clock as the early morning hours pass by, unable to get to sleep. To get to the bottom of it—and ultimately get more shut-eye—you'll first want to rule out anxiety, traumatic life events, psychological reasons, and poor sleep hygiene. What's poor sleep hygiene, you ask? It's all about the environment of your bedroom, like sleeping in a room that's not dark enough, keeping your electronic devices on, or sleeping in a room that's too warm, for starters. Research shows that as many as 70 million adults in America have a sleeping disorder, be it insomnia, sleep apnea, or chronic sleep deprivation. But a large contributor to this staggering lack of sleep is the lack of a healthy sleep routine, according to the American Sleep Association.
Knowing how much sleep you're getting each night is one way to start improving your sleep hygiene, as is creating a ritual to help you prepare for bed, which sends your brain a signal that it's time to wind down and helps your body ease into rest. (Stashing your phone, taking a bath, and incorporating some aromatherapy are all worth a try.)
If you can count out all of the above, the culprit could be something you drank or ate before climbing into bed. Even things you think might help you doze off can actually work in the reverse. Here, we've laid out what you shouldn't eat or drink before bed for a good night sleep.
This one might sound obvious, but here's the thing: Caffeine can affect your sleep routine even if you drank it hours before bedtime. "Caffeine affects everyone differently, but if you can't get to sleep, stop drinking it after 1 or 2 pm," says Dr. Daniel Barone, MD, a neurologist at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine who's written a book about sleep. "Caffeine has a half-life of up to five hours, which means it stays in your system and can affect you even after you don't feel that boost."
Although it has less than coffee, chocolate also contains caffeine. "The darker the chocolate, the higher percentage of cocoa it has, and the higher amount of caffeine," says celebrity nutritionist Keri Glassman. That means that although dark chocolate is healthier for you, you should try to eat it as an after-lunch treat instead of an after-dinner dessert.
The term "sugar high" speaks the truth about this addictive ingredient. It gives you a quick boost of energy, so if you eat candy before bed, you're not going to feel tired. "Think about what you eat before you'd run a marathon—refined sugar, simple carbs," Glassman says. "When you go to bed, you want the opposite of that."
On the reverse end of the spectrum, eating too much substantial, high-fat foods before bed will take away the body's energy from repairing itself—which it does exceptionally well during the nighttime hours—and put all of its energy into digesting fat, Glassman says.
Turkey (or Any Big Meal)
"Some people think turkey can make you sleepy because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that increases serotonin, which helps you relax, but this is a myth," Glassman says. "There's no more tryptophan in turkey than there is in many other common foods, but I think the reason this myth is associated with turkey is because we eat it on Thanksgiving as part of a big meal, and eating any big meal will make you tired because your body is working hard to digest it."
When your body is supposed to be winding down and focusing on repairing itself during the nighttime, you don't want it to have to instead gear up to concentrate all of its energy on digesting a big meal. Not to mention the fact that you shouldn't lie down after eating a big meal. You need to be sitting upright for proper digestion, which is especially true for those who have acid reflux, Glassman says.
Too Much Water
Too much water will keep you up going to the bathroom all night, but not enough can leave you parched. Barone recommends "front-loading" your eight glasses of water for the day. In other words, drink them mostly in the beginning and middle of the day, and just have a few sips before bed if you are thirsty.
No Food at All
If you go to bed starving, you might not be able to sleep. If you're really hungry, try a small snack like crackers and peanut butter, Barone says. Glassman recommends a banana, as it contains a natural form of melatonin, which helps you sleep. Beets also contain melatonin, and Glassman recommends HumanN Super Beets, a black-cherry flavored supplement, for an after dinner, pre-bedtime ritual.