‘Don’t Eat That Now–You’ll Have Bad Dreams…’ The Same Applies To Adults: Foods To Avoid Before Bed
We’ve all been there: you eat some late-night, strange Chinese take-out or indulge in some mini-candy bars around Halloween and you have trouble sleeping. Maybe you wake up with stomach pains, or you toss and turn, or you have bizarre dreams and wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.
All of these can be symptoms related to the cause of what we put in our bodies shortly before going to bed. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking and went to bed still wearing a nicotine patch: the chemicals running through your bloodstream still affect you while you’re sleeping. Maybe an added sugar boost won’t jack you up quite as much as a 21 milligram nicotine patch, but it can and will have an effect.
Here then are a few foods to avoid before bed, some obvious, some less so.
• Coffee or anything containing caffeine – This might seem like a no-brainer, but even if you’re one of those people who claims they can pound a double espresso at 8 and still be sound asleep by 10, the caffeine is still affecting your sleep more than you know. Studies have found that even in people who can fall asleep on caffeine, it shortens their sleep by about an hour, and makes them sleep less soundly, thus not allowing them as good a night’s rest.
• Chips and salsa – Sorry, late-night Mexican food lovers: this combination is among the worst for you in terms of sleep. Spicy, fried food, and acidic is the triple crown of heartburn, which can cause you to wake up in the night and spend the morning in a fog.
• Ice cream – But…but…not ice cream! Not fair, you cry! A nice bowl of ice cream as the movie winds down and you start thinking about drifting off to sleepy time is just what the doctor ordered, isn’t it? Afraid not. The fat content in ice cream can disrupt your sleep, and the sugar in ice cream can cause glucose spikes and valleys as you are trying to get to a place of restful deep sleep that will prevent you from getting the rest you need.
• Lo mein – Remember that warning about strange late-night Chinese take-out? Well, if you must indulge, at least go with the rice over the noodles. According to one Japanese study, people who ate noodle dishes before bed had more trouble falling and staying asleep than did people who ate rice instead. The theory is that the lower glycemic index of the noodles as opposed to the high glycemic index of the rice causes blood sugar spikes that disrupt sleep.
So what can you eat? A good rule of thumb is to avoid eating for at least a couple hours before bed. But if you must, nutritionists recommend eating something high protein/low carb that is low in sugar, like a handful of nuts or a boiled egg.
Anything to keep those weird food-dream monsters from chasing you around all night.