The worst time of day for healthy eating is the night time. After a long day of work, stress and good behavior, we find ourselves in front of the television or in bed – often hungry. Later on, we toss and turn in bed, unable to get some shut-eye. Why? Could your eating habits have a connection to your less-than-desirable sleep patterns? The answer is: yes. It’s very likely that you had a late night snack which contained one or more of the following 13 foods that you should avoid at night:
One of the tastiest foods in existence is sadly never a great idea when overdone, but not all bad either. Chocolate has caffeine, and the dark variety contains the most. In the morning or during the afternoon doldrums, the boost of energy that caffeine gives can be a welcome treat. It also improves alertness, reduces fatigue and spikes your metabolism – all good things, unless you’re trying to fall asleep. Take, for example, Hershey’s Bliss Dark Chocolate, which contains 30 mg of caffeine – at least a quarter of the caffeine in a cup of coffee! Chocolate also contains theobromine, a chemical which quickens the heart rate. To avoid both, grab a piece of white chocolate, which has neither of the sleep-preventing culprits (secret: white chocolate isn’t really chocolate, that’s why).
The digestive system slows down during sleep. Spicy food weighs even heavier on the digestive system than bland food, so it will disrupt the resting body that has to process it. This could result in you waking up several times during the night and not benefitting from continuous, regenerative sleep. Studies have raised the question of whether spicy foods eaten before sleep cause nightmares. To play it safe, avoid them at least two hours before retiring.
Coffee, much like previously-mentioned chocolate, contains a lot of caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system, causes adrenaline production and stops the brain’s production of chemicals which assist in sleep. A 16-ounce cup of coffee contains approximately 500 mg of caffeine. The affect of coffee on the body can last for hours after consumption. It’s advisable to avoid drinking coffee for at least 12 hours before sleep. Here’s a secret: decaffeinated coffee is not totally caffeine free.
Drinking a glass or two of wine seems to help people fall asleep. However, research tells a corollary truth — that alcohol can cause one to wake up frequently during the night. A 2013 study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research concluded that alcohol does not improve the quality of sleep. On the other hand, it does reduce REM sleep, which the body needs for regeneration and restoration. Limit alcohol consumption to 4 hours before sleep and no later.
Many of us wind up grabbing a slice of pizza or a burger late at night. Bad idea. Scientists, after conducting studies involving rats on high-fat diets, have found that high-fat foods may result in fragmented sleep and increased fatigue during the day. The problem might be related to orexin, or hypocretin, a brain chemical that controls sleep cycles in humans. In studies, rats that ate high-fat foods showed decreased levels of orexin and, therefore, poor-quality sleep.
6. Red meats
Protein is very healthy for the body and contributes to weight loss and building up muscle mass. However, the average human body finds it difficult to break down protein. Eating red meat, a food very high in protein, before going to bed will force your digestive system into overdrive, and disrupt sleep. Meat also contains tyrosine, an amino acid that can stimulate the brain. Red meat also has a lot of fat, which, as mentioned above, negatively affects your sleep. If you pair protein with carbohydrates, your body will have an easier time digesting the meal.
The information telling us how healthy water is, is endless. Our body is made up of water and it is absolutely crucial for our good health. So, how can it be bad? Drinking water all day long indeed prevents dehydration, increases body functionality and promotes cell regeneration. However, water is less than advisable before sleep because of a simple technicality. Drinking water during the time before you go to sleep will result in you having to visit the restroom one or more times during the night. Your body, sensing the need, will wake itself up and interrupt sleep. Stop drinking water at least two hours before sleep and you should be fine throughout the night.
Carbonated drinks contain acid, sugar and caffeine – all enemies of high-quality sleep. The high level of sugar in most sodas will immediately pump the body full of energy, known as a “sugar rush” which will prevent sleep. What about sugar-free diet sodas? Still no good. They contain Aspartame, a substance which is made from phenylalanine, a chemical linked to sleep disorders and more serious illnesses. Caffeine, as we have mentioned in relation to chocolate and coffee counteracts the effects of serotonin and melatonin, bodily hormones which help sleep.