Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall health.
Having trouble falling and staying asleep can make you feel tired and irritable the next day. The lack of sleep can also increase the risk of conditions like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
And unfortunately, sleep deprivation is all too common for most people. In fact, 35% of US adults don’t get enough sleep (less than 7 hours per night) and about 50-70 million suffer from one or several sleep disorders.
While there are many possible reasons for a sleeping disorder, one of the most common ones is eating foods that prevent sleep.
In this article, we’ll explore the 20+ foods that prevent sleep, as well as some of the most effective natural sleep supplements that can help you get the much needed zzz’s!
Let’s dive in!
20+ Foods That Prevent Sleep
Whether it’s a slice of pizza on the go or a late-night dinner to pair with a glass of wine, pizza won’t make it easier to doze off. Most pizzas have fatty cheeses that take longer to digest and tomato sauce with high acidity.
High-acid foods can trigger an acid reflux reaction in the night and interrupt your sleep. Even mild heartburn can cause you to wake up partially and feel groggy the next day.
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#2. Dark Chocolate
When reaching out for a healthier sweet snack, you might go for dark chocolate.
Even though dark chocolate has many health benefits like being nutrient-rich and having antioxidant properties, it might not be the best night snack, as both milk and dark chocolate contain caffeine.
An ounce of milk chocolate has 8 milligrams (mg) of caffeine while an ounce of dark chocolate has 12 mg of caffeine.
So if you eat a square or two of dark chocolate you get a quarter of the caffeine that’s in a regular cup of coffee! No wonder it prevents sleep.
Caffeine can stay in your system anywhere between 5 to 12 hours, so make sure you don’t eat any chocolate after 4 PM (if your bedtime is at 10 PM). This way, caffeine will be out of your system when it’s time to hit the bed.
Also, keep in mind that some people are fast caffeine metabolizers while others are slow. If you’re a slow metabolizer you’ll feel the caffeine effects for a longer time.
#3. Hamburger & Fries
This famous combo, as delicious as it is, might be disrupting your sweet dreams. The ground beef itself is a great source of protein and iron. However, it might overwhelm your belly.
Also, both hamburgers and fries are high in fat. This makes them hard to digest, especially before going to sleep when your body’s metabolism slows down.
To avoid indigestion and heartburn, you should eat such foods no later than 4 hours prior to bedtime.
Otherwise, you can try to substitute the juicy burger and tasty fries with leaner meat like turkey or chicken breast (which have 12 times less saturated fat) and a side salad.
That one probably comes as no surprise to you!
However, it’s the coffee that you drink during the afternoon hours that might keep you wide awake at night since caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours depending on your metabolism.
So, whenever you want to energize yourself in the afternoon, you might want to find a caffeine-free alternative like a fruit and veggie smoothie or a green powder shake.
Other energy supplements that prevent sleep (and you should avoid) include:
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Bacopa Monnieri Extract
- Nootropic stacks (a mix of natural stimulating ingredients)
Soda drinks are usually loaded with a ton of sugar or to be more precise about 40 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can.
However, the maximum amount of sugars you should eat in a day are:
- For women: 100 calories (25 grams)
- For men: 150 calories (37.5 grams)
So drinking only a can of soda is already crossing the limit. Additionally, you consume other products throughout the day that contain added and natural sugars.
And as you might have guessed loading on sugar is bad for your sleep schedule, weight, and overall health.
Additionally, sugar highs and lows can disrupt your hormone balance and contribute to sleep disturbances.
#6. Matcha & Green Tea
Matcha is a powder made of green tea leaves. A cup of matcha made with 4 teaspoons of the powder contains 237 mg of caffeine while a cup of green tea has 35 mg of caffeine.
Matcha and green tea also contain L-theanine which helps to release caffeine slower, so you don’t get the usual caffeine spikes.
However, green tea also contains 2 other components, theobromine and theophylline. These components can induce anxiety and nervousness.
To reduce the risk of getting all jittery, don’t take more than the recommended daily value of caffeine and avoid drinking matcha and green tea in the afternoon.
Limiting your caffeine intake to the morning hours in moderate amounts might help you to reap the benefits without disrupting your sleep.
Initially, alcohol can make you feel sleepy and you might even be able to snooze off.
But alcohol disrupts your healthy sleep cycle. You might end up waking up during the night and even wake up too early the next morning.
The result? You feel tired instead of rested the next day.
That’s because alcohol interferes with the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of your sleep which is the one that provides you with the restorative sleep that makes you feel replenished and well-rested.
Additionally, alcohol relaxes your muscles which increases the risk of sleep apnea and snoring.
#8. Sugary Snacks
High-sugar snacks can make your blood sugar levels spike rapidly. These spikes are followed by a blood sugar crash making you crave more sugary foods.
This way, you end up in a vicious cycle where you need a lot of sugar to stay energized during the day.
This messes up with your insulin levels and affects other hormones. For example, you might get random spikes in your cortisol levels (one of the stress hormones) late at night which will make you more alert instead of sleepy.
#9. Hot Peppers, Hot Sauce & Spicy Food
Hot peppers, hot sauces, and spices you put in your food like Tabasco, chili, and cayenne might be great for boosting your metabolism. However, they actually can disturb your sleep.
That’s because they contain the component capsaicin. Capsaicin might trigger heartburn and it also increases your body temperature. On the contrary, when you go to sleep, your body usually cools down for the night.
So, if your body temperature is higher, you might end up tossing and turning in bed for a while before being able to fall asleep.
#10. Tomatoes, Ketchup & Tomato Sauce
Tomatoes and tomato sauce might be a delicious addition to your Carbonara but they’re highly acidic.
That’s because tomatoes contain more than 10 types of acid among which are malic acid, citric acid, and ascorbic acid (also known as vitamin C).
As healthy as tomatoes are, they can cause unpleasant heartburn and disturb your sleep.
The same goes for ketchup. But in addition to the acidity, ketchup also contains preservatives. This makes ketchup even more acidic than tomatoes.
#11. Raw Onions
Giving up on raw onions will not only save you from their unpleasant aftertaste but also help you sleep better.
Eating raw onions, even just as an ingredient in your salad might make you bloated and cause gas.
This will create pressure in your stomach and lead to heartburn. And that will keep you awake for a while.
So, next time just try to pass on the onions in your salad or remove them from the other parts of your meal.
#12. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are high in fiber and sugar. Consuming them during the night can lead to cramps and gassiness and can cause worse sleep quality.
Try to avoid dried fruits and instead substitute them with sleep-friendly foods like bananas and almonds with high magnesium levels to help your muscles relax.
#13. Fatty Foods
Besides pizzas, hamburgers, and fries, try to avoid high-fat foods like burritos, nachos, and fried chicken.
Fatty foods before sleep cause indigestion, heartburn, weight gain, and you guessed it, sleep disturbances.
This is because your body will be loaded with food that’s hard to digest and you might wake up during the night.
As a result, you feel tired, grumpy, and not refreshed at all the next morning.
#14. Hard Cheeses
Hard cheeses are high in calories, which means a serving of hard cheese is just a couple of dices or a very thin sandwich slice. But let’s face it, you might eat more than just a slice of cheese.
And if you’re eating cheese late at night, it might cause indigestion and heartburn. Aged cheeses also contain the amino acid tyramine which stimulates the production of the stress hormone norepinephrine. As a result, you become more alert and awake rather than sleepy.
If you want to snack on cheeses like Manchego, Emmental or Gouda just do it 4-6 hours before your planned bedtime.
This way, you allow time for proper digestion and ensure a more peaceful sleep.
If you feel like dairy products at night, you can always have a glass of warm milk. Milk can help you fall asleep easier since it contains the sleep-inducing hormone tryptophan.
Peppermint might have many health benefits but it’s also known for causing acid reflux. If you're prone to getting heartburn from certain foods, you might want to stay away from peppermint.
#16. High-Protein Foods
High-protein foods like red meat steaks and ground beef might keep you full for longer time periods. However, they’re also associated with a higher chance of indigestion and heartburn.
Protein-rich foods contain tryptophan, as well as other amino acids. However, the tryptophan has to compete with all other amino acids to be processed by your body.
That, in turn, decreases the chance of tryptophan to be converted into serotonin. And serotonin is one of the hormones needed to produce the sleep hormone melatonin.
To increase the chances of absorbing as much tryptophan as possible, you can combine protein foods with a light-carb snack. The carbs can actually help tryptophan enter your brain and make you feel sleepy.
However, heavy meals should be avoided late at night. Try having them no later than 4 hours prior to your bedtime.
#17. Ice Cream
Having ice cream before going to bed is another habit you should stay away from.
Ice cream usually has high-fat content which might overwhelm your digestive system. It also has a lot of sugar. This will increase your insulin levels and high insulin is directly related to not being able to fall asleep.
Late-night ice cream treats can also spike your cortisol levels. Cortisol, as a stress hormone, will keep you wide awake instead of sleepy.
#18. Orange Juice
Orange juice before bed is a bad idea. Oranges, in general, have high acid levels which might give you heartburn.
Also, the sugar content in such juices is very high. A glass of orange juice might actually wake you up when you want to sleep or relax.
#19. Cured & Processed Meats
If your idea for a late-night snack is a sandwich with a slice of processed meat or a platter of different cured meats, rethink it.
Such meats have high sodium content and will make you feel bloated, causing you to consume more water. In turn, you might wake up a few times in the night to go to the bathroom.
On top of that, you’ll also retain a lot of water and feel discomfort throughout the whole night.
Cured meats also contain the amino acid tyramine which makes you more alert.
#20. Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables might not be the best dinner side dish. Even though they are packed with nutrients, it’s better to set them aside for lunch.
That’s because these veggies are made of mostly insoluble fiber which takes a lot of time to digest. So, instead of drifting off into a calm sleep, your body will still be working on digestion long after dinner.
Besides tomatoes and oranges, another highly acidic fruit you should avoid is grapefruit. Grapefruits might give you severe heartburn and disrupt your sleep.
Drinking enough water during the day and staying hydrated is a must. But if you chug a huge amount of water right before going to bed, this might disrupt your sleep since you’ll have to go to the bathroom at least a few times in the night.
To avoid such disruptions of your regular sleep cycle, reduce your water intake a minimum of 2 hours before going to bed.
Can’t Sleep? Try Natural Sleep Supplements
If you still need a bit of extra help to get some blissful zzz’s, you can take natural sleep supplements.
Sometimes, just following a good sleeping routine and a healthy diet might not be effective - especially if you’re under constant stress.
In such cases, a soothing herbal mix might be exactly what you need to feel more relaxed and easily fall asleep.
If you’re still not sure which sleep supplement you should go for, you can try:
Namastay in Bed
Namastay in bed combines 7 herbs to promote healthy and restful sleep. Among them are Valerian root, Chamomile, Passionflower, and Hops flower.
These potent ingredients bring you swift and prolonged sleep. This way, you’ll establish a regular sleep cycle and feel refreshed and energized every morning.
Having trouble falling and staying asleep might be a result of many factors like your diet, stress levels, and other lifestyle habits.
Trying to establish a regular sleep schedule, doing something relaxing before bedtime, and watching what you eat might improve your sleep cycle.
For optimal results, you can also try to incorporate natural sleep supplements to relax your nervous system and ensure you get a good night’s sleep.