Food to avoid before going to bed

Help for better sleep
Close up image of hot spicy food to show how these foods could stop you from sleeping well

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, waking up throughout the night, or getting up in the morning feeling like you haven’t been to sleep at all then you may be looking for some solutions.

There are lots of things you can try including mediation, herbal teas or simple stretches, but did you know that the food you eat can also seriously impact your ability to get to, and stay asleep.

Cheese has always had a bad reputation as a late night snack – being blamed for bad dreams and broken sleep, but is there any truth behind the myth and what other foods should we avoid late at night?

1. Cheese - this one definitely lives up to its bad name when it comes to healthy bedtime snacks. The fermenting process in aged cheeses creates compounds that can cause different physical reactions in the body – one of which is restless sleep and frequent sudden awakenings during the night. Aged cheeses have also been connected with headaches and migraines, so if you suffer from either of these you may want to cut it out of your diet.

2. Big portions – Although the feeling of slipping into a ‘food coma’ after a huge meal is deeply satisfying and enjoyable, it will actually have the opposite effect on your ability to sleep! Overeating can cause acid reflux, indigestion or heartburn – all big culprits for waking you up during the night. Try and have your main meal at lunchtime and a lighter meal in the evening if you suffer from any of these.

3. Fatty or spicy foods – these kinds of foods can be hard to digest and can also cause indigestion. Hot curries are definitely not recommended if you are having trouble falling asleep!

4. Chocolate – sorry to all the chocoholics reading this – but reaching for your favourite sweet treat after dinner is one of the worst things you can do for a restful night. As well as containing high amounts of sugar, chocolate also contains caffeine which can keep you tossing and turning into the small hours.

As well as avoiding these foods before bed, it is also important to watch your meal times.

You should aim to eat your evening meal at least 3 hours before you go to sleep. If you get hungry again before bed try eating a small, healthy snack, but avoid comfort eating or snacking in front of the TV. The body works hard to digest anything that you eat, and loading it up with a big meal just before bed will mean that your insides will be concentrating on breaking down the food you have eaten rather than resting and regenerating.

If you feel hungry later in the evening, try a small glass of water before reaching for the snack foods, as quite often our mind confuses hunger for thirst, and a quick drink can relieve any cravings. Just make sure that you are not turning to alcohol or coffee to quench your thirst, as these can keep you awake or stop you falling into a deep, restful sleep as well.

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