Don’t Eat These Foods Late At Night
Have you noticed that sometimes your stomach grumbles louder at night than it does during the day? When you get the late-night munchies, it’s easy to snack on your favorite foods. But, chances are those foods are not the best to eat before going to bed. Consuming foods with high levels of sugars, fat, and sodium can easily disrupt your sleep during the night.
“Sleep is so important to our overall wellness, so I definitely try to avoid habits that will interfere with quality sleep!” says Caroline West Passerrello, a registered dietitian and owner of Caroline West, LLC.
So, what should you snack on to tame those late-night cravings? Fortunately, there are foods and beverages that nutritionists say are good for you. But there are also some that you should avoid.
Don’t drink: Coffee and caffeinated tea
Coffee and black or green tea are comforting beverages, but both have caffeine, a stimulant that can affect your circadian rhythms, also known as your body’s 24-hour internal clock. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can take up to 10 hours to completely clear caffeine from your bloodstream. So, drinking too much caffeine can throw off your sleep cycle.
Drink this instead: Milk
Studies suggest drinking warm milk before bed helps you to relax and fall asleep faster. Milk is loaded with nutrients, plus it has tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods containing protein. Tryptophan plays an important role in producing serotonin, a chemical the body produces naturally that promotes sleep. The brain needs serotonin to make melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
Don’t eat: Popcorn, Pizza, French Fries, and Hamburgers
What do popcorn (the kind you get at the movies soaked with butter), pizza, French Fries, and hamburgers have in common? High levels of calories, sodium, and fat can elevate your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, and give you heartburn.
Eat this instead: Bananas or tart cherries
Bananas are loaded with minerals and vitamins, including vitamin B6, which converts tryptophan into serotonin. Cherries contain antioxidants, chemicals that interact with and prevent molecules called “free radicals” from damaging cells. Cherries contain both melatonin and tryptophan. So, either fruit can affect your sleep in a positive way.
Don’t eat: Chocolate
Chocolate is, by far, one of the most popular treats around. Furthermore, studies have shown that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and nutrients and has less sugar and milk than milk or white chocolate. Dark chocolate, however, has high caffeine content, and caffeine can keep you awake. So, chocolate is best enjoyed during the day.
Eat this instead: Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds may not be as satisfying as chocolate, but they go a long way in keeping you healthy and helping you get to sleep. Pistachios and walnuts contain melatonin, while cashews and almonds are high in magnesium, a mineral that helps your muscles to relax. Most importantly, cashews, pistachios, and almonds have tryptophan. Sunflower seeds are also rich in magnesium, while pumpkin seeds are loaded with protein. Keep in mind that seeds and nuts are high in calories, so a handful can help with a good night’s sleep.
Don’t eat: Ice cream
A sweet, creamy bowl of ice cream at any time of day is a non-guilty pleasure. But eating ice cream before bedtime will not be a pleasurable experience if your stomach cannot tolerate lactose, an enzyme found in dairy products. The uncomfortable feeling in your stomach caused by lactose can disrupt your sleep.
Eat this instead: Honey
Stirring raw honey into your herbal tea or lukewarm water not only has a calming effect but also helps your body as you sleep. A study by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found that raw honey supports glycogen, a main source of energy for the body that is stored in the liver. By increasing your glycogen levels with a little honey about 30 minutes before bedtime, your brain has enough energy to function as you sleep. In addition, an increase in your insulin levels contributes to the production of tryptophan.
Don’t eat: Spicy foods
Salsa, curry, Buffalo wings, and other spicy foods are best eaten during the day. This is because the sauces used in these foods are made of different types of peppers, and peppers contain capsaicin, an active chemical that makes peppers spicy. Studies have found that capsaicin increases body temperature and metabolism, which can interfere with sleep. Spicy food can also cause heartburn and indigestion, and a restless night.
Eat this instead: Hummus
Hummus is a creamy Middle Eastern food that you can spread on whole-grain pita bread or crackers. Hummus is made primarily of mashed chickpeas, which are rich in tryptophan. Chickpeas also contain high levels of minerals and vitamins.
Don’t eat: Citrus fruits and juices
While grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits are rich in vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients, they are also loaded with citric acid, which causes you to produce more stomach acid. This makes your stomach become fuller and increases the risk of heartburn, which makes for an uncomfortable night.
Eat this instead: Oats and granola
Whole grains, like oatmeal and granola, are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that can keep you feeling fuller longer. Whole grains are also known to have antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and high amounts of tryptophan.
Eating a hot bowl of oatmeal or granola (without added sugars) can work as a healthy snack about an hour before bedtime.
Don’t drink: Alcohol
While a glass of wine or a few fingers of whisky can help reduce stress, alcohol disrupts and decreases your deep-sleep cycles, known as rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Studies have found that interruption of REM sleep disrupts the brain’s ability to generate new cells, can potentially cause memory problems, and cause excessive daytime sleepiness, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Drink this instead: Herbal tea
Herbal tea, such as chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, passion flower, and magnolia bark, are made of natural edible plants and promote restful sleep. However, avoid adding sweeteners (they contribute to cavities) and lemons (they contain citric acid, a natural diuretic).
There are many other nutritious foods that you can snack on before bedtime, such as a hard-boiled egg. Eggs are a good source of protein and vitamins. Whatever you eat—even if it’s good for you—it’s important not to eat too much of it before bedtime.
Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says: “I avoid foods that I’m likely to overeat, so I don’t go to bed overfull.”