What Are The Foods That Adversely Affect Sleep?

We will examine what foods and beverages promote peaceful sleep in this article, but we will also explore which foods and beverages can disrupt sleep and rob you of quality sleep. 

If you are having problems with some foods or beverages, keep in mind that you do not have to give them up immediately – you can just cut back or gradually eliminate them from your routine. 

After each sleep-depriving item, you will also find a “How to Avoid It” tip box to help you eliminate or reduce it from your diet. Although changing your diet may seem challenging, remember that when you do these action steps consistently, the results can be amazing (i.e., you will sleep like a baby).

Caffeine

Caffeine acts as a stimulant, but it does not actually provide energy for the body, as food does. A stimulant is a psychoactive drug that elevates alertness and awareness by increasing brain activity. You’re probably familiar with the side effects of giving up caffeinated beverages cold turkeys, such as headaches, irritability, and fatigue.

Caffeine is commonly found in the beverages listed in this section. This section includes a chart that compares caffeine amounts in various beverages, with some having more caffeine per ounce than others.

The effect of caffeine varies from person to person. Some people may feel a boost in alertness and an increase in heart rate after drinking coffee, while others may not feel any effects whatsoever, and honestly, some may even feel like taking a nap after drinking coffee. 

When you notice that you are experiencing jittery, anxious feelings from the caffeine, cut back immediately. Note how caffeine affects your body.

Coffee

During college, caffeinated beverages were a friend during those late nights, and if you’re like most people, they make a regular appearance in your daily routine, getting you through the day. 

The National Coffee Association reported that in 2018 64 percent of Americans drink coffee every day; 44 percent consume two to three cups per day. Coffee is the number one beverage consumed worldwide.

I do not plan on telling you to never drink coffee again, so listen to me before you skip over this section. Having enjoyed a good cup of coffee on countless occasions, I’m not the one who can say, “No more coffee!” However, I have had days when I almost fell asleep at my desk if caffeine from iced coffee weren’t there.” 

A lifelong coffee drinker is less likely to develop diabetes, which is a positive benefit of drinking coffee. However, the following are some of the negative side effects that can arise from overindulging in most foods and beverages.

Are you familiar with this story? Within an hour of waking up in the morning, you have your first cup of coffee. As you slow down in the morning, you have a second cup of coffee. After lunch, you are fatigued and yawn, so you grab a third cup of coffee for the day. It’s a caffeine crash. 

As opposed to providing sustained, consistent energy, caffeine increases activity in your nervous system for a short period of time. You feel energized and alert for a while, but as soon as the stimulant has finished excreting through your body, you become sluggish and sluggish.

Caffeine consumption should be limited to 400 milligrams per day in total or 200 milligrams per beverage consumed in one sitting. It is most important that you consume caffeine at the right time when considering your sleep. The amount of coffee consumed late in the evening can affect the quality of sleep. Caffeine should normally be avoided eight hours before bedtime, according to general recommendations. Will you be in bed by 10 p.m.? After 2 pm, stop consuming caffeine.

Beyond the stimulating effects of caffeine from coffee, the acidity of coffee may contribute to sleep disturbances for those suffering from heartburn. A coffee’s sugar content should also be considered. 

How to Avoid It

  • Limit coffee intake to two (8-fluid-ounce) cups per day.
  • Cut off coffee consumption by 2 p.m. at the latest.
  • If you typically drink coffee in the afternoon, consider switching to green tea or black tea, which both contain half the amount of caffeine.

The Best Sleep Supplements Reviewed

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Pitch Black Supplement – Sleep Supplement 

Harmonium Sleep Support – Sleep Supplement 

Caffeinated Teas

Perhaps you aren’t a coffee drinker, but a tea fan instead. In terms of substituting coffee for black tea, this beverage still contains caffeine, which should be avoided prior to going to sleep. 

When it comes to caffeine, an 8-fluid-ounce cup of black tea has about 47 milligrams, so if you’re looking for a tea to enjoy before bed, try herbal tea, which is naturally caffeine-free.

A few other things to watch out for:

  • Never mistake chai tea for herbal tea without caffeine. As chai is made of black tea, you should avoid drinking it after sunset or before bedtime.
  • If you have caffeine sensitivity but enjoy matcha tea, do not consume this grassy green tea after 2 p.m. A teaspoon of matcha mixed with 12 fluid ounces of liquid will contain approximately 70 milligrams of caffeine depending on the type and quality.

How to Avoid It

  • Choose herbal teas instead of black tea in the evening.
  • As an alternative to hot tea, opt for herbal teas or plain water at dinner instead of iced tea.

Energy Drinks

You don’t have to entirely eliminate all of these sleep-impairing foods and beverages from your diet. When it comes to energy drinks, that goes out the window.

They are packed with caffeine and guarana extract, which delivers twice as much caffeine per weight as coffee. Energy drinks and energy shots have nothing good to offer your body, and they offer little nutritional value. 

Even though energy drinks have some nutritional benefits, such as providing B vitamins, these vitamins are excreted in the urine, so they don’t give you an energy boost unless you have a deficiency.

Energy drinks can contain anywhere between 27 and 164 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces, and energy shots contain 80 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per 2 ounces. Two to four servings of these are not likely to exceed the recommended daily intake of 400 milligrams of caffeine, but important to remember that caffeine does not provide the body with energy—it is merely a stimulant. 

In short, if you seek energy to get you through the day, you should consume nutrient-dense foods and engage in regular exercise.

How to Avoid It

Don’t buy energy drinks at gas stations and grocery stores (which is totally okay). Do your body a favor by leaving them on the shelf. Since naturally caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea are proven to be healthy, swap energy drinks for them.

You can set a cutoff time of 2 p.m. for drinking them if you’re taking baby steps and can’t give up the energy drinks just yet. 

Caffeinated Sodas

Often, you overlook the caffeine in sodas, but if you have trouble sleeping at night, you should take a look at how many of these drinks you consume daily. When compared fluid ounce for fluid ounce, soda has less caffeine than coffee and energy drinks. However, the total amount consumed is usually much higher than coffee. 

One’s ability to drink a lot of soda at one sitting depends on the package size. With a 32-fluid-ounce beverage and a fast-food meal, you might consume a large 12 fluid ounce bottle, a 20 fluid ounce bottle, or even a 20 fluid ounce bottle. 

Will you drink all the soda, regardless of the size of the cup or container? If it’s regular soda, not only will this affect calories and sugar, but it will also affect caffeine levels.

Adding phosphoric acid to sodas, which gives them acidity and helps prevent mold and bacteria from growing, is another concern.

While phosphoric acid is made from phosphorus, a mineral our bodies need and helps to form our bones and teeth, excess phosphorus can lead to issues such as osteoporosis due to an imbalance between calcium and phosphorus, and can interfere with magnesium use.

Deficient magnesium levels have been linked to insomnia, anxiety, depression, joint pain, muscle cramping, and hypertension. For men and women 19 to 50 years of age, the recommended daily phosphorus intake is 700 milligrams per day, which may be found in one soda. 

You should consider your usual daily soda consumption and whether you should add in calcium-rich beverages, such as milk, during the day to balance your calcium-phosphorus intake.

The sugar content of regular sodas also makes them a double-edged sword when it comes to caffeine. As these sugars can contribute to sleep disturbances, we will also examine simple sugars, such as granulated sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

A caffeinated soda is more likely to be consumed within an hour or two of going to bed than a cup of coffee, so it’s worth considering if you think caffeine could interfere with a good night’s sleep. Consider caffeine-free options before bed if you enjoy bubbly drinks.

You can substitute carbonated, flavored waters without adding sugar when you need a bubbly drink. Sparkling waters have also become quite popular, and most grocery stores offer an abundance of flavor options.

How to Avoid It

  • Consider switching to caffeine-free soda if you’re not ready to give up soda.
  • To get a good night’s sleep, avoid caffeinated sodas 2–3 hours before bedtime.
  • Would you like to give up sodas but love the bubbles? Get your carbonation fix by drinking flavored sparkling waters without added sugar.

Caffeine Content of Beverages

  • 330 mg in one (16-fluid-ounce) Starbucks Grande coffee
  • 110 mg in one (16-fluid-ounce) Starbucks Grande Java Chip Frappuccino
  • 108 mg in one (8-fluid-ounce) cup generic brewed coffee
  • 76 mg in one (8.5-fluid-ounce) can Red Bull
  • 64 mg in 1-fluid-ounce espresso
  • 47 mg in one (8-fluid-ounce) cup brewed black tea
  • 47 mg in one (12-fluid-ounce) can Diet Coke
  • 28 mg in one (8-fluid-ounce) cup green tea

Dark Chocolate

While dark chocolate has its nutritional benefits, like being chock-full of antioxidants, it also contains caffeine. Chocolate is derived from cacao beans, which contain caffeine naturally. Cacao and dark chocolate have higher caffeine content, so the higher their cacao content.

It is generally classified as dark chocolate if it contains at least 60 percent cacao. In most cases, the front of the package displays this percentage. There is a good chance that the amount of cacao is below 60 percent if there is no percentage listed on the label and no “dark chocolate” information. 

According to the cacao bean type and origin, chocolate bars may contain varying amounts of caffeine. Your sleeping patterns are influenced more by your caffeine tolerance and the amount of caffeine you normally consume throughout the day.

You may notice that your sleep is better if you refrain from eating dark chocolate before bed for a week or two. If you tend to get sleepy after drinking coffee, soft drinks, or tea, then dark chocolate even 4-5 hours before bed could possibly disrupt your sleep.

How to Avoid It

  • Dark chocolate should be avoided four to five hours before going to bed if you are sensitive to caffeine.
  • Enjoy a piece of white chocolate or milk chocolate with nuts or fruit after dinner to quench your chocolate cravings.
  • Enjoy dark chocolate earlier in the day, possibly as an after-lunch treat.

Caffeine Content in Chocolate (approximate values)

  • 12 mg in 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 20 mg in 1 ounce of Ghirardelli 60 percent dark chocolate bar
  • 6 mg in 1 ounce milk chocolate
  • White chocolate contains no caffeine

Alcohol

While alcohol is a depressant and can help the body to relax, it can hinder you from entering the deep stages of sleep. During sleep, your body and brain restore themselves: not something you want to miss out on!

After a couple of drinks, you might begin to feel sleepy or even fall asleep, but you are more likely to wake up frequently in the middle of the night. You should not use alcohol as a sleep aid, and if you already suffer from insomnia, it will not solve your sleep problem permanently.

Drinking three drinks or more on any given day may start disrupting your sleep on a regular basis. Alcohol can also exacerbate snoring, so if you or your spouse snores, be prepared to wake up frequently throughout the night.

To unwind from the day, many people drink wine with dinner or before bed. For some people, this nightly activity may not cause any sleep disruptions; however, if you are finding it difficult to get quality sleep because of this behavior, eliminating this habit for a week or two may help you feel more rested. 

As well as interfering with sleep in the short term, alcohol can negatively impact nutrient levels in the body over time and cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 

Excess alcohol intake can deplete magnesium stores in our bones and muscle, and having inadequate levels of this mineral has been linked to insomnia, anxiety, depression, hypertension, and heart arrhythmias.

Getting a good night’s rest may be difficult when mixed drinks contain caffeinated soda, energy drinks, or other beverages that contain significant amounts of sugar. 

Refined sugar, caffeine, and carbonation are all disruptive to our sleep, but the combined effects of sugar and alcohol can be more harmful.

Furthermore, taking sleep medications combined with alcohol should be avoided if you have difficulty breathing. Drinking alcohol, which can have respiratory depressive effects, will also make sleep apnea symptoms worse, resulting in you waking up more frequently at night.

How to Avoid It

  • Try a relaxing, nonalcoholic beverage like herbal tea.
  • If you want a drink in the evening, enjoy it with dinner or at least 3–4 hours before heading to bed.
  • For every alcoholic beverage consumed, drink two glasses of water to counteract the effects and improve your chances of sleeping restfully and avoiding dehydration.

High-Fat Foods

Although a bacon cheeseburger meal at a fast-food restaurant might satisfy your appetite right now, you’re more likely to lose sleep later. Eating high-fat foods and meals stimulates the production of stomach acid and loosens the esophageal sphincter (which releases stomach acid). 

This means you are more likely to get heartburn after a high-fat meal, which can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Adults should consume 20–35 percent of their total calories from fat in an acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR). A person who eats approximately 2,000 calories a day could consume 400–700 calories from fat. 

For a daily fat intake of 44-77 grams, you’d need 44g – 77g. Dietitians can provide personalized nutrition care based on your health status and goals, so it’s best to consult a registered dietitian to get the most out of it.

Say you aim for 65 grams of fat per day. You would consume 56 grams of fat in one meal, or 86 percent of the recommended daily value, if you eat a McDonald’s Bacon Smokehouse Burger with fries for dinner. 

McDonald’s offers a cheeseburger with kids-sized fries, a side salad, and a fat-free dressing with 17 grams of fat for a lower-fat option. The difference is huge! The possibility of it making a difference in your sleep at night is definitely worth considering before you purchase.

It might be difficult for you to determine what foods are high in fat. Foods with a high-fat content include fried foods, cream sauces, creamy dressings, chips, pastries and doughnuts, cream-based soups, frozen pizzas, poultry and some cuts of meat, hot dogs and other processed meats, and ice cream.

However, these foods do not have to be avoided completely. If someone told me there would be no more pastries, I would be very upset! It is important to take a look at your diet four to six hours before bedtime and on a regular basis during the week if you’re having trouble sleeping at night because of indigestion. Sleep, as well as your heart and overall health, can be affected by a high-fat diet.

You might be thinking, “Aren’t avocados, salmon, and nuts high in fat?” It’s true that these particular foods are higher in fat, but it’s the healthier type of fat (think monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids) that does not negatively affect total cholesterol levels, and supports brain and cell health, among many other vital functions. 

Five ounces of wild Alaskan salmon, for instance, contain about 9 grams of total fat, with 7 grams of those being mono- or polyunsaturated fat.

How to Avoid It

  • If you have a high-fat dinner, take a walk afterwards to aid with digestion.
  • Try baking commonly fried foods like chicken tenders, fish, or fries.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes of higher-fat foods and limit overall intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and other health issues.

Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar

It might be a routine to have a sweet treat before bed, but it could also cause sleep disturbances. It is important not only to consider how much-refined carbohydrates you eat at night but also how much you consume throughout the day. When you consume too much sugar during the day, you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

What are refined carbohydrates exactly? You may be more familiar with the term simple carbohydrates, which includes refined sugars and refined grains. White flour, white rice, white bread, candy, pastries and baked goods, and soda are all simple carbohydrates. 

As a rule, this type of carbohydrate is very low in fibre and may contain a lot of added sugar.

The bran, germ, and endosperm of refined grains have been removed, leaving them with lower fibre content and a higher glycemic index, whereas complex carbohydrates retain these parts and can help stabilize blood sugar levels. 

The current recommendation from the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is that at least half of all the grains eaten during the day should be whole grains.

Sugars containing high levels of processing and simple sugars burn fast in the body due to their rapid absorption in the blood. The consumption of refined carbohydrates is often associated with spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. 

A rush of insulin can leave you feeling hungry after eating a meal, causing overeating and possibly weight gain.

Continually high insulin levels lead to insulin resistance, or poor insulin sensitivity, and need more insulin from the pancreas.

If this continues, the pancreas may not be able to meet insulin demands, and glucose levels in the bloodstream may arise. Consequently, prediabetes and diabetes may develop when insulin can’t reach the cells where it’s needed for energy.

How to Avoid It

  • Choose snacks with complex carbohydrates and protein, such as whole-wheat crackers and peanut butter.
  • To satisfy a sweet tooth before bed, try one of the snacks.
  • During the day, limit sugary beverages, including sodas, juices, lemonade, energy drinks, and speciality coffee drinks and aim to make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains.

Spicy Foods

When you watch Monday Night Football, do you love spicy chicken wings? Could it be that you like your hot sauce a little too much at dinner? Research suggests that spicy foods, especially in those suffering from acid reflux, can interfere with sleep.

If you are experiencing imminent heartburn, you can reach for antacids, but they only mask the problem and are not meant to be used long-term. As these medications are kept in your system for a long period of time, they slowly become ineffective, which means you will have to take more than recommended. 

In other words, if you suffer from heartburn, listen to your body and avoid spicy foods. Because you may need to give up your favorite spicy sauce to get some sleep, doesn’t mean all of your food has to be boring. 

If you want to spice up your food, there are a lot of ways to do it! Basil, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, and oregano are some of the best fresh or dried herbs to use. Consider topping chicken wings with homemade garlic-parmesan sauce (unless garlic triggers your acid reflux) or honey-soy sauce instead of hot sauce.

How to Avoid It

  • Avoid eating spicy foods, especially 4–6 hours before bedtime.
  • Add flavor to foods with herbs and ingredients that are not spicy.
  • If you’re experiencing reflux, try drinking a cup of ginger tea or chamomile tea to help ease digestive issues.

Acidic Foods

Almost 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, and it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause without some trial and error. Your acid reflux may be caused by acidic foods. 

No matter whether you eat citrus fruit or drink its juice, you’re going to consume a lot of acid in the digestive process. As a result, there can be an acid overload causing food to back up into your esophagus.

The same reaction can be caused by tomato-based sauces on pasta or pizza, as well as sliced tomatoes. Citrus and tomatoes can make symptoms worse when consumed on an empty stomach.

In addition, the more time that passes without treatment, the more severe the heartburn gets. You shouldn’t mask acid reflux by chewing tons of antacids, as described in the previous section. 

Chronic reflux is more likely to result in more serious complications, so it’s vital you identify what’s causing it and limit the foods you consume.

How to Avoid It

  • Avoid tomato-based sauces, citrus foods, and any other acidic trigger foods 4–6 hours before going to bed.
  • Try low-acid varieties of orange juice if you don’t want to give it up entirely, and do not drink it on an empty stomach.
  • If you’re experiencing reflux, try drinking a cup of ginger tea or chamomile tea to help ease digestive issues.

Big Meals

Among Americans, dinner is often the meal that provides the highest calories and largest portions. Other cultures eat their biggest meals during lunch and eat lighter meals at dinner. Small-portioned meals are common in Spanish and Mediterranean cultures as well.

The United States also eats too fast. The feeling of being stuffed and miserable usually occurs before we overindulge. Keep meals short so you don’t feel overstuffed. An entire meal should be eaten within 20 minutes of preparation to ensure optimal digestion and prevent overeating. Why? This is about how long it takes for the brain to send a feeling of fullness.

In recent studies, it has been shown that eating too quickly is related to being overweight or obese. Slowing down at meals may take some practice, but it is worth the effort. When dining, limit distractions such as checking Facebook or watching TV during your lunch break. This will prevent you from gobbling up a meal. 

Take the time to enjoy your meal and the people you might be enjoying it with. Of course, you may not have this luxury at every meal, but if you can practice this at one meal each day, it’s a step in the right direction.

How to Avoid It

  • When dining out, if the portions served are much larger than necessary, don’t stuff yourself! Get a to-go box when the food comes out and put half away immediately so you’re not tempted to keep eating.
  • If you’re at a party, don’t congregate around the food table for a long period of time. Step away from the food so you’re less tempted to grab “just one more.” It’s easy to start mindlessly eating the snack mix, even when you’re no longer hungry, if you’re standing next to it.
  • Use ChooseMyPlate.gov as a resource to help determine appropriate portion sizes of different foods.
  • Challenge yourself to take 20 minutes to enjoy at least one meal a day.

Dehydration

Adequate hydration is as important for quality sleep as it is for how you feel and function during the day. Dehydration can cause irritability and confusion while you’re awake, but at night it can increase sleep-disruptive snoring due to dry mouth and nasal passages. 

It’s also likely to lead to muscle cramping that jolts you awake in the middle of the night from electrolyte imbalances. Furthermore, mouth breathers, chronic snorers, and those with sleep apnea are at even greater risk of becoming dehydrated at night due to fluid loss.

It has long been recommended that individuals consume 64 ounces of non-caffeinated fluids daily, which equals eight (8-ounce) glasses. However, it falls short of the amount of fluids you should drink during the day. 

The amount of fluid a woman should consume from beverages and food is 90 ounces, while men should consume approximately 125 ounces. Instead of downing a liter of water right before bed, it’s best to spread drinks and foods that will hydrate you throughout the day. If that happens, you’ll be up in the middle of the night for a completely different reason!

Make sure you are getting enough fluids if you feel hungry even between meals because dehydration can be mistaken for hunger. Often after drinking water or tea without added sugar, the feeling of hunger leaves completely.

Food accounts for 20 percent of most people’s hydration needs. You can easily meet your fluid needs by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables high in water rather than trying to consume more non-caffeinated fluids throughout the day. 

Dehydration can also be prevented by avoiding high-sodium foods like soy sauce, frozen meals, smoked and processed meats, deli meats, canned soups, chips, salted nuts, processed foods, and some cheeses.

How to Avoid It

  • Drink beverages like infused water and herbal tea or hydrate yourself with cucumber, grapefruit, and watermelon.
  • To prevent sleep problems as well as many other potential health problems, minimize the consumption of foods high in sodium.
  • Be sure to carry a reusable water bottle while travelling and at work to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Should You Take Supplements To Help You Sleep?

Melatonin’s production and release cycle fluctuate with the time of day, with levels naturally increasing in the evening and falling in the morning.

This is one reason melatonin supplements have become popular, especially when the melatonin cycle has been disrupted, such as that associated with jet lag.

If you require a little extra help to get a good night’s sleep, you might consider trying natural sleep-promoting supplements.

Resurge is one of the most popular melatonin supplements that promise to help you sleep better.

It contains melatonin as its first ingredient. Research shows that your body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that tells your brain it’s time to go to sleep. In other words, the primary function of this hormone is to let the body know when it is time to go to sleep so that it will relax and sleep easily. 

The pineal gland produces melatonin, but it is also produced in other places, including the ovaries, bone marrow, and gastrointestinal tract.

Although more research is needed, current evidence suggests that melatonin can be useful in helping people get to sleep. When taken for short or long periods of time, melatonin supplements appear to be safe for adults, according to studies

Resurge supplements might allow your body to absorb enough melatonin to maximize your natural melatonin production. Apart from that, it is also marketed as a weight-loss supplement because epidemiological studies show that insufficient sleep is associated with a higher risk of obesity

However, since the supplement industry is barely regulated, you might want to read some reviews for the Resurge supplement before making any purchase.

Also, remember that you should always consult your doctor before taking any supplement, especially if you are pregnant or taking medication. 

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