Foods that Disturb Sleep Pattern

Foods Which Interrupt Sleep

Can Certain Foods Disrupt Sleep?

You, just like everyone else, are likely to remember hearing the phrase, “Go to sleep!” uttered by your parents when you were younger and probably during a sleepover. While those days are gone, there is a good chance that you are still hearing those words, only know they are coming from you!

We’ve all heard the statistics – adults really need between seven and a half to eight hours of sleep a night in order to function well during the day. But even though we know this, many of us can’t seem to get a handle on it.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that about half of the American population experience nights of insomnia, at lease least on occasion. Something that people tend to overlook is how food can play a role in our sleep behavior.

“We know that certain foods that we consume can interfere with sleep, says Carl E. Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. “The most obvious one in terms of stimulating wakefulness would be caffeine…Everyone is aware that coffee can keep them awake; what they’re not necessarily appreciating is there’s caffeine or related items in many other things that they consume.” (

Of course, caffeine isn’t the only thing that’s keep you up. To help prepare you for your next good night’s sleep, here is a list of foods and beverages to avoid right before bedtime:


At first this seems like a no-brainer since most people are aware that caffeine will keep them up at night. But doctors advise not consuming coffee or other caffeinated drinks even six hours before sleep. Coffee-flavored items like candy or ice cream can also cause havoc. And believe it or not, decaf coffee can cause problems too! It still contains enough caffeine in it to disrupt sleep.

Green Tea

In addition to caffeine, green tea contains two other stimulants – theobromine and theophylline – which can cause an elevated heart rate, feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Hardly what one would expect from a relaxing cup of tea.


Water is good for you and humans should stay hydrated, but there is a limit. “If you drink too much right before bed, you may find yourself awakening multiple times to urinate,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “Instead, start to taper off your fluid intake about three hours before bedtime.”

Dark Chocolate

Yes, it has been established that dark chocolate can be a healthy snack, but it’s not a friend to sleep because it too contains caffeine and lot more than most of us would think. Some servings of dark chocolate can contain about 25 to 38 percent of the caffeine that is found in a regular cup of coffee. While that amount won’t bother some people, others who are highly sensitive to caffeine to begin with should only consume dark chocolate during the day. There is good new though. While milk chocolate still contains the chemical, it is lot less.

Fatty Foods

Ironically, the same fatty foods that can make people sleepy during the day can keep you up late at night. Burgers, pizza, French fries and the like are likely to cause discomfort when one is lying down. From the fat-laden cheese to the acid found in the tomato sauce, both can cause acid reflux. This also goes for the ketchup consumed while eating those fries or that spaghetti sauce eaten with the late night bowl of pasta. Some people don’t even realize that their body is being disturbed by the heartburn but it can cause one to remain partially awake during the night.

Other foods like steak take a long time to digest and soups or chili’s containing beans can cause a bloating sensation and indigestion. They can even disrupt one’s Circadian rhythm if eaten too close to bed time. Need further proof? High-fat, high protein diets have also been linked to sleep apnea.

Spicy Foods

Often it is those same fatty foods that contain spices that can cause heartburn (which is never comfortable even when one is wide awake) but studies have also shown that spicy foods tend to raise one’s body temperature which can make one’s sleep quality poor. The same goes for peppers too.

“I love recommending hot peppers as an easy way to boost metabolism, but consuming them late in the evening can trigger heartburn in sensitive individuals,” says Palinski-Wade.

Finally, lay off the hot sauce as well. Hot sauce contains capsaicin which can keep one’s lower esophageal sphincter to stay open longer than usual, leading to heartburn.

Broccoli, Cauliflower and Onion

Just because mom told you to eat your veggies, she didn’t mean right up until bedtime. Let the fatty foods mentioned above, broccoli and cauliflower contain tryptophan which is a good thing since they help one’s body produce serotonin providing for a good night’s sleep. However, they also digest very slowly making one’s body work overtime late into the night.

Onions are also known as gas generators that will end up putting pressure on one’s stomach forcing the sphincter to once again be propped open allowing acid to flow back to the esophagus.

Dried Fruit

Again, it’s another case of when good healthy food goes bad. Eating a little too much dried fruit cause many people to have gas and can cause cramping. “This is thanks to their high-fiber, low-water content,” says Lisa DeFazio, MS, RDN.

High Sugar Cereals

While adult usually pass on the box of Sugar Bombs for breakfast, they will often allow themselves to enjoy a bowl of “dessert cereal” at night. This can be a mistake as well.

“Eating high-sugar cereals will make your blood sugar spike and crash, which will affect your sleep,” says DeFazio. “Choose cereal with less than five grams of sugar per serving.”

What Foods You CAN Have Before Bed

Milk has been the drink of choice of people who can’t sleep for hundreds of years and with good reason; it contains tryptophan. But most experts don’t believe that it contains enough to make a difference. However, a small glass milk or even one sweetened with a milk chocolate cocoa mix just might make for nice nightcap after all.

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