It's not great to eat before bed, as food can be stimulating and make you feel too full when you're trying to comfortably snooze. However, it happens and sometimes the days are long and you end up eating dinner soon before bed or you might be hungry for a midnight snack. (And it's better to eat a little something than to try and sleep with a growling belly!)
However, some foods are better than others before bedtime. Some foods help boost melatonin levels to help you sleep and others that can keep you wide awake. Worried about those troublesome sleep disturbers? Watch out for these 10 foods, which could keep you up way longer than you'd like, plus some healthy options to have instead.
"For those with acid reflux problems (or women who temporarily have them while pregnant), tomatoes and other acidic foods can cause pain and discomfort in the esophagus when you lay down," says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. Enjoy them earlier in the day when you'll be upright and be sure to eat them with other non-acidic foods that balance out the reaction in your stomach.
A cheeseburger (just like all foods) can be enjoyed from time to time as part of a healthy diet but late night isn't the time to enjoy them. "The excessive amounts of saturated fat can slow gastric emptying, leaving food in your stomach, and blood flow directed there while you're trying to fall asleep," says Jones. This causes the body's hormones to shift to digestion and absorption, rather than sleep.
Save your donut to have with an omelet in the morning (some good protein!) or as a special treat from time to time. "This food is both fried and high in sugar which can cause digestive discomfort and blood sugar reactions for some people," says Jones. Remember that thing called a sugar rush? Definitely not the best option before hitting the hay.
See more: Healthy Dessert Recipes with Fruit
"While it's many people's favorite way to snack at night, chocolate does contain caffeine," says Jones. Caffeine can be stimulating, so if you're sensitive, you'll want to steer clear. " Many people opt for dark chocolate because it's lower in sugar and higher in antioxidants, but it's higher in caffeine as well, so those sensitive to it may have trouble falling asleep if this is when they opt to eat it," says Jones.
Dried fruit is high in fiber and sugar, both of which can lead to an overactive digestive system too close to bed. Fiber has so many amazing health benefits but when you're chowing down on dried fruit late night, you may end having a little too much fiber too soon, which can lead to gas and bloating will certainly keep you (or your partner) up at night. Instead, stick with a small serving of fresh fruit, like a small apple, or a cup of berries.
Go mild when close to bedtime as spicy foods, like hot chili peppers and certain sauces and condiments, can be very acidic and lead to digestive discomfort. Plus, if you have acid reflux, it'll act as a trigger, making it hard to sleep. Spicy foods can also interfere with IBS, so if you have a sensitive stomach, it's better to cut back on spice in the day and avoid it at night.
This is a doozy: acidic tomato sauce and high-fat cheese and refined bread, means your tummy will be rumbling when yo go to lay down. Don't get us wrong, pizza is absolutely delicious and if you do end up eating a slice or two close to bed, go with a healthier thin-style crust (like a cauliflower or whole-wheat crust), opt for light vs. heavy cheese if possible, and ditch the marinara sauce for something light, like an olive-oil based sauce.
If sticking with a comfortable serving size, steak and vegetables actually makes a healthy meal before bed. However, if you're eating a massive 22-ounce steak dinner at a restaurant, beware. All that meat will sit in your stomach and make it hard to fall asleep from the overwhelming feeling of fullness. It all comes down to portion control regarding high protein and high fat meals. If you're craving a filling meat-based snack, try one serving of jerky or this fun alternative for plant-based Beet Jerky.
High Sugar Cereals
Having some complex oats (like a quick bowl of fruit topped oatmeal) before bed can be helpful for sleep, but any grains, cereals, muffins, or granola that have too much sugar will be stimulating, making it harder to fall asleep. Avoid those sugary cereals and instead look for ones with a low sugar count and some fiber. That way, you'll settle your belly without all the extra added sugar and refined grains.
Chips you'd buy in a bag at the store should not be on the list of midnight snacks. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that greasy foods, like chips, led to nightmares, so not only will you struggle to fall asleep quickly but also you might wake up in the middle of the night clenching onto the blanket in fear. Less than ideal. Instead, go for homemade popcorn to get the crunchy salty fix you're looking for.
Related: 9 Foods to Help You Sleep