Insomniacs Beware: Risky Foods and Drinks That May Keep You Awake


Insomnia can be a frustrating and exhausting condition, leaving sufferers desperate for a good night’s sleep. While many people try various remedies and lifestyle changes to combat sleeplessness, one aspect that is often overlooked is diet.

According to sleep specialists, certain risky foods and drinks consumed before bedtime could be contributing to sleep disturbances.

Dr. Abhinav Singh, a board-certified sleep medicine and internal medicine doctor, and medical director of the Indiana Sleep Center, warns against consuming spicy foods close to bedtime.

Risky Foods and Drinks Contribution In Insomnia

Spicy foods, especially if one is not accustomed to them, can trigger acid reflux, a common disruptor of sleep. Similarly, Dr. Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona, advises against indulging in hot and spicy dishes late at night, as they can lead to excessive waking due to acid reflux.

Tomato-based foods, such as pizza, are also on the list of culprits. Singh notes that tomato is a major trigger for acid reflux, which can interfere with sleep. He recommends avoiding such foods, particularly those high in sodium and saturated fat, as they can exacerbate reflux issues. Patel suggests leaving a three-hour window between eating such meals and going to bed, especially if they contain cured meats like pepperoni.

Beef, which digests slowly, can also disrupt sleep. Singh warns against consuming beef-heavy meals, particularly burgers laden with reflux-triggering condiments like ketchup. However, he suggests opting for alternatives like veggie or vegan burgers to avoid digestive issues before bedtime.

Desserts high in sugar, such as ice cream, should also be avoided close to bedtime. Dr. Raj Dasgupta, chief medical adviser for Sleep Advisor, highlights the negative effects of high sugar content on blood sugar levels, stomach issues, and overall alertness at bedtime. Additionally, Singh warns against chocolate ice cream specifically, as it contains caffeine, which can further disrupt sleep.

Even seemingly innocuous choices like milk before bed can be problematic. Patel points out that milk can trigger acid reflux due to lactose content, recommending plant-based alternatives like oat milk instead.

While avoiding caffeine before bedtime is a well-known recommendation, Patel warns against hidden sources of caffeine in flavored drinks like Vitaminwater. Singh adds that even flavored waters can contain significant amounts of caffeine, which can interfere with sleep if consumed too close to bedtime.

Peppermint, often touted as a natural remedy for insomnia, may have hidden drawbacks. Singh cautions against consuming peppermint before bedtime, as it can also trigger acid reflux, a common disruptor of sleep.

In place of these risky foods and drinks, sleep specialists recommend opting for foods that are gentle on the digestive system. Complex carbohydrates high in fiber, such as brown rice and lentils, along with lean proteins like chicken and fish, are suggested choices. Singh emphasizes the importance of timing, recommending smaller, lighter meals closer to bedtime, with late-night snacks kept under 300 calories.

As research continues to uncover the complex relationship between diet and sleep, individuals struggling with insomnia may find relief by adjusting their eating habits in addition to other lifestyle changes. By avoiding certain foods and drinks before bedtime, insomniacs may improve their chances of achieving a restful night’s sleep.

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