Ask SleepBetter: Food Before Bed?

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is from a Facebook friend who wants to know about the relationship between food and sleep:

“Will eating or drinking certain things before bedtime stop you from having a good nights sleep?”
-Evonne (via Facebook)

The short answer, Evonne, is “yes”.  There are a LOT of foods and drinks that will impact your ability to sleep, both negatively and positively.  We can’t possibly list all of them, but here are some highlights:

Obviously, you should avoid consuming any food or drink that contains caffeine within several hours of bedtime.  This is easier said than done for some, but this includes caffeinated soda, coffee, and even chocolate.  Sugar is a bad idea as well, as it can hype you up when you should be settling down.  Finally, you should avoid alcohol around bedtime.  It may help you get to sleep, but once it wears off you may wake up and have trouble returning to dreamland.

Any heavy food (like steak) or too much of just about any food, will create problems for you at bedtime.  This is because your body has to work to digest the food, which can disrupt your sleep patterns.   Should also avoid garlic-flavored and highly spiced foods. These foods can make you uncomfortable or cause heartburn.

There ARE foods that some believe actually help with sleep.  Cherry juice is one that’s been talked about a lot over the last few years, including in this article here at SleepBetter. We also provided a list of teas that might help in a previous Ask SleepBetter entitled “Hot Tea for Insomnia?

One final note: in articles like this, the subject of turkey always comes up.  We’ve busted this myth before.  Turkey does contain tryptophan, a chemical involved in the sleep process, but it doesn’t contain enough that it’s the reason you want to nap after your Thanksgiving meal.  We covered this in a Sleep Myth Monday article found here: Turkey and Tryptophan.

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