While there are many things that affect the quantity and quality of the sleep you get, one most people overlook is the food they eat before bedtime.
Seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If you’re not getting at least that amount of sleep as an adult – and more if you’re younger – then you’re not getting enough. There are a few individuals who can get by with less, but they are in the minority. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30 percent of adults report that they regularly sleep six hours or less per night. This puts them at risk for developing diseases, nodding off during the day at inappropriate times, and experiencing difficulty performing daily tasks. If one of those tasks involves driving a car or something else that requires your full attention, it’s easy to see just how important adequate sleep is for your health and well-being.
While there are many things that affect the quantity and quality of the sleep you get, one most people overlook is the food they eat before bedtime. Choosing the wrong meal before you sleep will make you toss and turn all night, while the right one will have you sleeping like a baby.
For a good night’s sleep, avoid the following foods at least four hours before bed:
- Caffeine: Perhaps the most well-known sleep stealer, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that will bind to certain areas of your brain called receptors. These receptors usually bind with another chemical that tells your brain to go to sleep. Since caffeine blocks that chemical, you’ll remain wide awake. For some sensitive individuals, caffeine should be avoided within 12 hours of bedtime
- Heavy meals: Meat and fat are hard to digest, which makes meals like burgers and pizza a bad choice before bed. Eating these too close to sleeping can also upset your stomach.
- Acidic and spicy foods: Eating spicy foods such as tacos or acidic foods such as citrus fruits can cause heart burn and stomach irritation. This can be especially problematic if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates: Sugary snacks and refined carbs such as white bread and pasta will cause your blood sugar to spike. This can give you a rush of energy, which is bad when you’re trying to fall to sleep. It may also disrupt the release of melatonin, a hormone that dulls your alertness to help you go to sleep and stay asleep.
- Alcohol: A night-cap can help you fall asleep, but you’ll likely be wide awake later on that night when “rebound wakefulness” kicks in and disturbs your sleep. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means you may wake up to use the bathroom more frequently.
What Should You Eat Before Bed?
Eating the right meal before bed can help promote sleep. As a rule of thumb, cut off all eating and drinking at least one hour before bedtime to give your body some time to digest.
Focusing on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains will keep you satiated without spiking your blood sugar. A bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk is a great option.
You may also want to snack on foods that contain substances known to promote sleep, such as magnesium and tryptophan. Turkey, soy beans and pumpkin seeds are high in tryptophan, and dark leafy greens and avocado are high in magnesium. So, grab some guacamole and whole grain chips for a tasty treat before turning in.