If you’ve ever spent a night laying in bed begging your body to hit the off switch, you definitely don’t take your sleep for granted. Sleep keeps your body healthy, your skin glowing, your mood up, and your mind sharp.
You might think your sleep is an inevitable part of life–when you get tired, you just fall asleep. But the truth is, everything you do during the day has an impact on how you sleep that night, even what you eat.
There are a variety of things you can do to get a better night of sleep. Putting down your electronics, keeping your bedroom dark and cool, getting a mattress that doesn’t cause aches and pains, and drinking herbal teas are a few simple ways to catch some quality zzz’s.
But if you are serious about your sleep health, you should also consider your consumption habits before bedtime. As enticing as a bowl of ice cream or a glass of wine can be, they are harming you more than you think! Here are four foods to avoid before bed so you can sleep peacefully:
This one may be a bit surprising considering having a few drinks at night makes most feel like cuddling up and hitting the hay. But while a glass of wine might make you feel sleepy, alcohol actually disturbs your sleep later in the night.
It’s true the moderate to high doses of alcohol help you fall asleep faster, but it increases sleep disruption later on in the night. The result? You are jerked out of the sleep you need most: REM sleep, which is the deepest and most restorative stage of sleep.
Research shows that a spicy meal before bed can indeed lead to poor sleep. In one study, men who ate meals containing Tabasco sauce in the evening took longer to fall asleep and got less sleep overall than on nights they did not consume spicy foods.
One of the reasons this happens is because spicy foods increase body temperature. At night, our core body temperature is supposed to drop one to two degrees. This reduction in body temp helps us fall and stay asleep. When it stays elevated, it’s tougher to fall asleep. Hence the reason sleep is seemingly impossible when you have a fever.
Sad, but true—chocolate is bad for our sleep. This is primarily due to the caffeine this sweet treat contains.
Caffeine is a stimulant very similar to adenosine, the hormone that keeps you awake during the day. When your body gets even a little caffeine, you are telling it to stay awake.
You wouldn’t down a pot of coffee before bedtime, so you shouldn’t eat a bar of chocolate either. The good news is that white chocolate does not have caffeine in it! So if you really need a chocolate fix, you’ve got one option.
The bad carbs
Not all carbs are created equal.
While there are certain types of carbohydrates that can help you feel relaxed and ready for bed (think whole grain oats, brown rice, etc.) not all carbs are good for your sleep. The ones you should avoid before bed are refined carbs, aka sugary drinks, pastries, white bread and pasta, and those salt and vinegar chips calling your name.
Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to lessen deep slow-wave sleep and lengthen the time it take to actually fall asleep.
I know this list has been hard to hear, but it’s not all bad news. There are some yummy nighttime snacks that can actually help you sleep! Next time you’re yearning for a treat, try some lavender or chamomile tea, peanut butter toast, or a handful of white chocolate chips, nuts, and cherries.
Swapping out wine and ice cream for tea and toast before bedtime might just save your sleep.