When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, what you consume can have a big impact. In fact, some of the worst things to eat and drink before bed may be part of your regular nightly wind-down routine. For instance, although you may think something like a glass of wine can help you chill out and prep you for sleep, it often does the opposite. “Your daily energy, focus, and mood all start the night before, with a good night’s sleep,” DJ Blatner, registered dietitian and NOW Wellness Expert, tells TZR in an email. “Sleep is actually a super active time for our body — it’s the time it repairs and recharges. Getting quality sleep is basically like a computer reboot button, so you are able to feel rested, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle the day.”
And Dr. Peter Polos, sleep medicine specialist and Sleep Number Sleep Expert, adds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that adults 18 and older should sleep at least seven hours per night. “This is based on data that supports we need seven hours of sleep for our body and brain to fully experience the benefits of sleep,” he tells TZR in an email. “This includes memory consolidation, cleanup of metabolic byproducts, and restoration of baseline status. You should do your best to achieve enough quality and quantity sleep on a regular basis.” Otherwise, you won’t just feel sluggish or tired the next day, but the lack of sleep can also impact your immune system, alertness, productivity, eating habits, and overall health, he explains. “Our immune system, for example, helps us fight illnesses, and a lack of sleep can negatively impact our ability to do so,” he says.
And, of course, what you eat and drink before bed can also impact your sleep. Ahead, experts weigh in.
Avoiding caffeine right before bed may be a given, but did you know that you should stop drinking it hours beforehand? Research studies have found that you should stop consuming caffeine at least six hours before bed. Dr. Raoul Manalac, senior director of clinical experience, metabolic health, at Ro, a digital healthcare platform, says to note less common sources of caffeine, too, like chocolate. “Caffeine is not only found in coffee, but also tea, soft drinks, and foods, like dark chocolate,” he says. “The stimulating effect of caffeine can make it difficult to sleep. If it is part of your daily routine, try to limit it to the morning hours to give your body enough time for it to be metabolized.”
Amy Korn-Reavis, a sleep specialist coach for BetterUp, adds that caffeine affects everyone differently. “Some people may need to stop consuming it at noon or 3 p.m.,” she tells TZR in an email. “It depends on your body. If you are having issues with sleep, you may want to take a moment and document what you are eating and drinking in the evening.”
Spicy & High-Acid Foods
“Spicy food, as well as high-acid foods, both create acid,” says Korn-Reavis. “When we add acid to our stomach, we increase the opportunity to have reflux, commonly referred to as heartburn. This disrupts our ability to sleep comfortably.” She says if you find yourself having some high-acid foods before bed, one thing you can do to help is use more than one pillow, so you are not sleeping flat. “This helps reduce the amount of acid that can move up your esophagus and cause burning and coughing,” she says.
Manalac says that if you’d like to sleep soundly, avoid high-fat foods before bed (think cheese and anything fried). “These foods can interrupt sleep for many people by causing stomach discomfort or heartburn,” he says. “Eating foods like these earlier in the day can give your digestive system time to process them before you go to bed.” Polos adds that meals with excessive amounts of fat can also lead to abnormal sleep breathing patterns, affect stages of sleep, and lead to daytime sleepiness.
Alcohol is also a big culprit when it comes to things that will impact the quality of your sleep. Blatner says since alcohol is a depressant, it may cause you to feel sleepy — at first. “But alcohol makes it more difficult for your body to get into the reparative deep REM sleep,” she says. “If you choose to drink, aim to do so at least four hours before bedtime so your body has a chance to metabolize some of it before going to bed.”
Heavy Meals, Especially Those With Meat
“A heavy or meat-heavy meal can interfere with your sleep,” Korn-Reavis says. “Our body’s metabolism slows down in our sleep, so if you eat a heavy meal before bed, you may not digest the meal effectively and it will start to ferment. Or, your body will not slow down, which keeps the body from getting the rest it needs.”
Foods With High Levels Of Glucose
When it comes to sleep, “foods with high levels of glucose can be a problem for some individuals, as well,” says Polos. This is because, when you sleep, blood sugar levels increase as part of your circadian rhythm cycle. So you want to avoid having even more foods or drinks with sugar before bed. (And remember to take into consideration foods you may not think have sugar, but do, such as bread or non-dairy milk.)
“It’s possible taking vitamin B-12 too close to bedtime can make it more difficult to sleep, since it plays a role in energy production,” says Blatner. Although research is mixed on how much it may impact sleep, the vitamin can potentially have a negative effect. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency and are taking higher doses, you could experience side effects such as headaches, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, or anxiety, which would impact sleep. So to be on the safe side, you may want to take your B-12 earlier in the day.
Too Much Water (Or Other Drinks) Too Close To Bedtime
Although drinking water throughout the day is very healthy, try not to drink it too close to bedtime. “Getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom is a common sleep disruptor,” says Blatner. “Stay hydrated all throughout the day instead of chugging water too close to bedtime.”
The Cleveland Clinic suggests not drinking water (or anything) at least two hours before bed. If you have to, like with a medication, they recommend small sips and no more than eight ounces. Blatner adds that if you do drink something before bed (not right before), you may want to add some kava kava — a plant native to the South Pacific Islands long used to promote relaxation — to some hot water or herbal tea to get you in sleep mode.