- Sweet Dreams: How Sugar Impacts Your Sleep
- The No. 1 Secret for Better Sleep
- Why eating late at night may be particularly bad for you and your diet
- Join our free Weekly Newsletter!
- Sugar and Sleep: Is Sugar Keeping You From a Good Night’s Rest?
- You Should Never Eat These Foods Before Bed
- 1. Dark chocolate
- 2. Ice cream and yogurt
- 3. Wine
- 4. Spicy foods
- 5. Fried foods
Sweet Dreams: How Sugar Impacts Your Sleep
Who doesn’t love a delicious after-dinner dessert? But digging into those cookies or that bowl of ice cream means that you’re pumping lots of added sugar into your body—something that can negatively impact the quality of your sleep.
In fact, the more sugar that you eat during the day, the more often you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night. Even if you don’t fully wake up, the sugar in your system can pull you out of a deep sleep, making you feel exhausted the next day.
On top of that, consuming too much sugar during the day can lead to an energy crash. Eating lots of sugar reduces the activity of what are called orexin cells. As a result, you’re going to feel pretty sleepy. Ever wonder why you want to take an afternoon nap after chowing down on something indulgent? That’s why.
To avoid those nap-inducing energy dips, you want to do everything that you can to keep your blood sugar level steady. Do that and you’ll keep your energy level even throughout the day, helping you stick to a normal sleep schedule.
One of the biggest ingredients that can knock your blood sugar levels off balance is refined sugar. Obviously it’s in sodas and desserts, but it’s also in many juices, breakfast cereals, canned fruits, and even spaghetti sauce and barbecue sauce. You’ll also find refined sugar in simple carbs (think: white bread, white rice, and regular pasta). Cut back on those foods (and replace them with complex carbs, like whole grains) and you won’t just improve the nutritional value of your food, but also how well you sleep at night.
The No. 1 Secret for Better Sleep
Since having my children, sleep hasn’t been the same. While my kids have been sleeping through the night for years, I was still waking up once or twice each evening, which I assumed was normal.
One of the first questions my trainer, Tomery, asked me was regarding my sleep. “It’s important your body is resting enough to ensure efficient weight loss,” she said. After telling her that I always woke up in the middle of the night, she explained that our bodies are designed to sleep through the night.
I was confused and asked her about those early-morning bathroom trips. She said that having to use the bathroom shouldn’t wake us up. Instead what’s happening is our blood sugar is dropping from those late-night snacks, causing us to wake up, and when we do so, we notice we have to use the bathroom.
To try to remedy my problem, we looked at my evening snacking. Sure enough, I was enjoying some type of sweet every night before bed. I munched on apples with almond butter, nuts with dried fruit, or chocolate. Tomery suggested I replace those snacks with something less sweet such as a slice of cheese or some nuts minus the dried fruit.
The first night I woke up once, but the second night I slept until I had to get up and have been ever since. My quality of sleep is better too. I sleep much more soundly and wake up without an alarm every morning at the same time.
Now I pay attention to what I’m eating from dinner on. Giving up my favorite snacks is well worth the refreshing sleep I’m getting in exchange. When I wake up, I’m ready to take on the day and work toward my weight-loss goals!
- By Beth Blair
Bowl of whole wheat spaghetti and sauce. The sauce includes ground turkey, fresh basil, tomato sauce, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic, olive oil and italian seasonings.
We lose sleep over so many things, so the last thing we need is our late-night dining decisions working against us.
Everyone likes a little nighttime nosh, but what you decide to nibble on can drastically affect how well you sleep. While some foods help your slumber, others (fatty or greasy options) can wreak havoc on your rest.
If you’re looking for a peaceful night, here are the 10 foods you should avoid right before bed.
1. Ice Cream
A bowl of ice cream might be the most comforting bad-breakup bed accompaniment, but there’s a limit to its soothing properties.
For starters, ice cream is loaded with fat, so you’re not going to give your body a chance to burn any of it before bed, and then all of the sugar is going to pump your body full of energy right before you hit the hay, so you’ll be sending your body divergent messages. On top of that, the sugar just gets stored and turned to fat, too, so this is a lose-lose situation all around.
It’s also been discovered that eating high-sugar foods before bed causes nightmares, so while the taste might be calming, the results are unnerving.
Seeing celery on this list might surprise you, but there’s a simple reason for it: celery is a natural diuretic. What that means is it’s going to make you pee a bit more than usual.
Diuretics elevate the rate of urination because they push water through the system. So that means that if you’re dipping into too much celery right before bed, your body might wake you out of your slumber for a pee break.
Vegetables are some of the most nutrient-rich foods you can give your body, but avoid ones like celery for the sake of uninterrupted sleep.
Pasta is a fast and easy fix for those craving a quick bite before bed, but it’s not your ideal nighttime snack.
Pastas are straight carbohydrates, and if you’re going to bed right after eating, that’s all going to turn into fat. On top of that, the things added to pasta — oils, cheeses and heavy cream or tomato sauces — will only add to the crowd in your love handles.
Also, most pasta has a high glycemic index, which means it’s more likely to play with your blood-sugar levels, delay sleep and wake you up at night.
If you want to give your stomach a good workout before bed, feed it some greasy, salty pizza. Your stomach, like the rest of your body, would love to relax when most of the other organs are chilling, too, but pizza isn’t exactly a light meal. Your tummy will have to get busy.
The layer of tomato sauce has high levels of acidity, which is just another catalyst for acid reflux, but in general, fatty and greasy toppings — especially high-fat meats and cheeses — do a good enough job of their own on stirring up heartburn. That’s not the wakeup call you want at night. If you’re going to do it, be nice to your stomach and check out these nutritional pizza toppings.
One slice isn’t the end of the world, but when’s the last time you stopped at one slice?
More From AskMen.com:
Sleep Better: Eat These 5 Foods
9 Bad Eating Habits to Avoid
Top 10: Gluten-Free Diet (Foods to Avoid)
Top Foods for Men
5. Candy Bars
If nightmares about the monster in the closet or the gremlins under the bed disturb your sleep, you might want to avoid candy bars.
One of the easiest — and worst — ways of breaking out of a deep slumber is from a nightmare that’s very real to us. A recent study has shown that 7 out of 10 people who eat junk foods like candy bars before bed are more likely to be prone to nightmares. The hypothesis is that the high levels of sugar create more nightmarish brain waves. Try these junk food substitutes instead.
Cross this late-night snack off your list if you’re looking for a peaceful night.
Mitt Romney loves a good bowl of cold cereal right before bed, but he might want to be careful which one he chooses or he won’t get the rest he needs.
Cereals often contain high amounts of refined sugar and are chock-full of carbohydrates. That might set you off on a bit of a spike and crash in your blood sugar levels, which is not the ideal way to put your body at peace before bedtime.
Instead of reaching for sugary cereals, go for healthier cereals. Those that are whole-grain and have low sugar will quench the craving but won’t keep you up.
You might want to avoid garlic before bed if you’re sleeping with a partner, but it’s best avoided for reasons besides bad breath. Garlic is known as a “hot herb,” and, along with spicy food, it tends to have some properties in it that can cause heartburn.
It’s known to sometimes have the side effect of upsetting the stomach, so if you have a weak stomach or are vulnerable to acid reflux, the last thing you want to do is light the fire right before you lie down to rest.
8. Dark Chocolate
Who doesn’t like to sneak a little nub of chocolate before bed to get that warm feeling inside? Unfortunately, if you’re aiming for a good night’s sleep, dark chocolate is one of the foods you’d better avoid.
Dark chocolate is a sneaky source of caffeine, which is known to perk you up. Almost all chocolate contains some level of caffeine, and on top of that, it’s loaded with stimulants like theobromine, which is known to make your heart race a little bit.
The lone saving grace is white chocolate, which doesn’t have theobromine and is usually short on caffeine.
There’s a general belief that copious amounts of alcohol puts you into a deep daze and produces great sleep, but that’s not fully accurate. While alcohol does help you get to sleep, it doesn’t lead to long-lasting and refreshing rest.
Alcohol actually interferes with the restorative functions of sleep, often paving the way for shallow sleep and several awakenings throughout the night. On top of that, people who regularly use alcohol to fall asleep develop a dependency on it, which creates a frustrating cycle.
If you’re aiming for a deep, peaceful sleep, alcohol is to be avoided.
10. Red Meat
After a big portion of red meat — be it a nice brisket or a big, juicy steak — most of us undo the top button on our jeans and give way to the snooze-inducing itis.
The problem is that red meat is loaded with proteins and fats that will keep your body hard at work throughout the night. To achieve a deeper sleep, you ideally want all your systems at peace — and meat takes longer to digest than any other foods.
Don’t avoid red meats altogether, as they have high levels of iron and tryptophan, which helps sleep. Just don’t eat it right before bed, or your body will be busy breaking it down all night.
Why eating late at night may be particularly bad for you and your diet
Loath as you may be to admit it, chances are that at some point you have found yourself in the kitchen late at night, devouring some sweet, salty or carb-rich treat even though you weren’t hungry.
Scientists are getting closer to understanding why people indulge after dark and to determining whether those nighttime calories wreak more havoc — whether they drive up the risk of weight gain and of chronic diseases such diabetes — than ones consumed earlier in the day.
“For years, we said a calorie is a calorie no matter when you consume it,” says dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I don’t know if we can say that anymore, based on the emerging research. The timing of a meal may potentially have an impact.”
Most of the major studies on late-night eating have been conducted with animals,night-shift workers and people who, due to a disorder called night eating syndrome, consume at least 25 percent of their daily calories after supper or who wake up to eat at least twice a week.
Studies tend to show that when food is consumed late at night — anywhere from after dinner to outside a person’s typical sleep/wake cycle — the body is more likely to store those calories as fat and gain weight rather than burn it as energy, says Kelly Allison of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.
Some animal studies have shown that food is processed differently at different times of day. This could be due to fluctuations in body temperature, biochemical reactions, hormone levels, physical activity and absorption and digestion of food, says Steven Shea, director of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health & Science University.
“The studies suggest that eating out of our normal rhythm, like late at night, may prompt weight gain” and higher levels of blood sugar, which can raise the risk of chronic disease, Allison says.
Not enough research on what prompts weight gain has been done, Allison says, to determine whether timing is as important as — or even more important than — the types or amounts of food often consumed at night. People tend to choose more highly palatable items — sweet and salty foods, which tend to be more caloric — when they’re tired and have restrained themselves all day, Allison adds. And night-shift workers tend to overestimate how many calories they need to stay awake while on duty.
The main meal
Two recent studies have shed new light on the potential impact of timing. In a study of 420 overweight or obese people published in 2013, those who ate their major meal after 3 p.m. lost less weight during a 20-week weight-loss program than those who ate that main meal before 3 p.m. — even when the amount they ate, slept and exercised was the same.
“This is the first study to show that eating later in the day . . . makes people lose less weight, and lose it slower,” even when the amount people ate, slept and exercised was the same, says the study’s lead author, Marta Garaulet, a professor of physiology at the University of Murcia in Spain. “It shows that eating late impairs the success of weight-loss therapy.” In the 2013 study, the early eaters lost 22 pounds, the late eaters only 17.
In a subsequent small study of healthy women published this year, Garaulet and her team showed that when participants ate lunch after 4:30 p.m., they burned fewer calories while resting and digesting their food than they did when they ate at 1 p.m. — even though the calories consumed and level of activity was the same.
What’s more, when the participants ate late, they couldn’t metabolize, or burn off, carbohydrates as well as when they ate earlier. They also had decreased glucose tolerance, which can lead to diabetes. (The two-week study did not track whether the women gained or lost weight.)
“There are still many questions to answer,” Garaulet says, and further study should focus on“clock” genes in fat tissue that can affect metabolism.
She is exploring what happens if you eat at the wrong time for your body-fat clock — i.e., at a time when your fat tissue is not ready for it. “It could be that if you eat late, then the capability your body has to mobilize fat is lower because it’s not the right time,” Garaulet says.
Dining like kings
Most Americans spurn the adage to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” U.S. adults consume 17 percent of their day’s calories at breakfast, 24 percent at lunch and 34 percent at dinner, according to the USDA’s “What we eat in America” survey.
It may be the pace of work life, which leaves room for little more than a quick breakfast and lunch during the typical weekday.
But circadian rhythms — the internal body clock that regulates sleep and other cycles based on light and darkness — may also be a factor. In a small study published in 2013, a group of non-obese adults stayed in a dimly lit area for 13 days, got plenty of sleep and consumed identical meals at even intervals throughout 24-hour periods. Despite that regularity, they still reported being substantially hungrier at 8 p.m., than they were at 8 a.m. They also had more cravings for sweet, salty and starchy foods in the evening.
The Oregon Institute’s Shea, who co-authored this study, suggests that evolution may be at work. For our primal ancestors when food was scarce, he hypothesizes, “one of the most efficient things to do in the evening was to eat. That’s when the body can store energy as fat and glycogen, so that you’re ready for what might happen the next day without having to immediately replenish calories by eating.”
Hormones may also be driving us to eat late, says Pamela Peeke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones that follow the natural circadian rhythm, plummet by the time 3 p.m. rolls around, as do energy levels, as the body prepares for the end of the day. That is fine if you’re shutting down, too, and planning on a 5 p.m. dinner and then early bedtime. That energy drop off is not so fine if you’re still working or rushing to meet a late-day deadline.“Focus begins to wax and wane, and that’s when people start making mistakes,” Peeke says. Instead of heeding the body’s signals to get an early dinner and then get to bed, many people head to the vending machine or the coffee shop for an energy boost.
And the high-sugar, high-fat foods they reach for only rev up the appetite, possibly setting the scene for a late-night food bender. “What you’re doing is compounding a mess,” Peeke says. “If you eat junk, that’s going to jack up your insulin and drive you to forage for more sugar later on.”
But not all late-night eating may be bad. Some researchers are exploring whether there is an upside to a small late-night snack.
A number of recent small studies have shown that consuming a 150-calorie protein shake 30 minutes before bed may help muscles grow, quell morning appetite, boost metabolism, help the body recover from tough workouts and have other positive effects. In one study, 44 healthy young men who had a protein shake before bed gained more strength and muscle mass from a three-month resistance training routine than those who did not.
“Sleep is the only time you’ve got when you’re not doing other things requiring energy,” says Michael Ormsbee, director of the Institute of Sports Sciences & Medicine at Florida State University. “When you totally shut down almost every other action other than staying alive, the body is primed to work on recovery, cell turnover, improving immune function and repairing and regenerating sore and damaged muscle tissue.”
In a 2014 study, Ormsbee and a team of researchers found that when overweight and sedentary women had a 150-calorie protein or carbohydrate shake before bedtime, they were less hungry in the morning but they also had higher levels of insulin and glucose in their blood — which, over time, can cause excessive fat storage and even diabetes. But in subsequent research published this year, overweight women who consumed a protein shake and also started exercising three times a week got the same benefits — they felt less hungry — but the insulin spikes disappeared.
“Exercise is absolutely the game changer,” Ormsbee says. “You’ve got to include that in your daily routine.”
The participants in this study didn’t lose weight over the four weeks that they were tested, but longer studies are in the works to explore whether protein nightcaps might help people shed pounds.
The hypothesis is that by having a small protein snack before bed, you keep a constant influx of protein in your blood, so it can help build and repair muscle tissue while you’re sleeping, Ormsbee says. And since the body has to burn calories to digest the food, there’s a chance it might keep the metabolism a little more revved up overnight.
Ormsbee cautions that people shouldn’t take his findings as license to have a meal before bedtime. After all, the research has involved only small, portion-controlled shakes. “We’re not saying, ‘Eat anything you want,’ ” he says.
Van Allen is a writer based in Portland, Maine, who has finished 49 marathons and ultramarathons. She is the author of “Run to Lose: A Runner’s Guide to Weight Loss,” due out in December.
Cold turkey is no way to curb late eating
To stop your diet from getting derailed at night:
●Don’t restrict what you eat so severely during the day, says Traci Mann, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and author of “Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower and Why You Should Never Diet Again.” That way, you won’t have to control yourself as much at night, and you won’t be preoccupied with feeling hungry and rebound with food you’ve been forbidding yourself to eat. “Most dieters say that their toughest time of day is post-dinner,” Mann says.
●Keep junk food out of the house. Don’t buy tempting indulgences: If they’re not in your cupboard, refrigerator or freezer, you can’t surrender to them when you go foraging at 10 p.m. “If it’s not there, you can’t eat it,” Mann says.
●Eat early. Eat your main meal earlier in the day if you can: Lunchtime is better than dinnertime, says Steven Shea, director of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health & Science University. And stop all eating about three hours before bedtime, says Washington-based dietitian Joy Dubost.
●Keep after-dinner snacks small. Limit yourself to 100 to 200 calories, Dubost says.
●Don’t go cold turkey. If you try giving up all sweets and alcohol all at once and promise to exercise an hour a day, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. “That’s too much,” says Heather McKee, who teaches behavior change psychology at Britain’s St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. “You cannot cope with that. You have to take measured steps. And take it slow.”
●Take good notes. Keeping a journal and tracking what, how much and why you eat can help you foster the awareness that will ultimately help you resist temptation, McKee says. “If you track your lapses and understand your triggers, you’re more likely to overcome them,” she says. “Awareness is the first step.”
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It takes time, but I try to read every single email you send me and when I get an email like this one below from Claire, it makes me want to help ASAP!
“I am SUCH a late night snacker… It comes to the point, where the cereal box is on my nightstand while I’m watching a movie when I could just be asleep. This obviously worsens when I drink alcohol. However, I don’t want to give up alcohol because that is not the lifestyle I’m after, rather I would like to cut down and also cut down the late night binges on unhealthy processed food since my days are usually full of whole foods that are good for me.” – Claire S.
I think nighttime sugar cravings are the absolute worst and I know many of you can relate! If you have ever tried to go “cold turkey” to simply stop eating sugar – and failed – don’t despair! While it can truly seem as if the odds are against us – there is hope! There are several strategies that I’ve used over the years to curb my own sugar cravings (I used to be a major candy ADDICT!) and hopefully these little tricks will help you too…
Sugary foods release endorphins that make you feel more relaxed and after you’ve had a long day sometimes it can be hard to refuse a sweet treat to “reward yourself” with that great feeling. The processed food industry knows how addictive sugar is, and carefully engineers their products to hit what they call “the bliss point” to make us crave their foods more and more. They even add sugar to salty foods – it’s reprehensible!
Five ways to stop cravings in their tracks:
If it’s not there, you can’t eat it! But once you bring the bag of cookies into the house you have made it ten times harder to keep your cravings at bay. Willpower will not last, and sooner or later you will come home exhausted, stressed, and the first thing you will reach for are those cookies! Clear any sweets and processed food from your pantry and refrigerator and replace them with simple one-ingredient REAL FOOD snacks – apples, bananas, vegetable sticks, nuts, seeds, boiled eggs. Tell everyone in your family to not bring any sugary junk into the house either, so you won’t be tempted!
#2 – Drink A Cup Of Hot Tea
One of my all-time favorite rituals is drinking tea – especially at night! I drink hot tea almost every night before bed and it really relaxes me and takes away any cravings. I love mint, ginger, or spicy cinnamon teas, as these are amazing at blasting away sugar cravings. That’s because they are naturally sweet without the sugar, and warm and comforting.
#3 – Get Moving!
Exercise releases feel good endorphins that can provide a similar “high” as a sugary or junk food treat can. Not only will you feel better about yourself and the decision you made to be active, but you are also creating new healthy habits by immediately inserting an activity when you feel a craving coming on. I love to take walks outside before the sun sets in the evening, right before dinner. I find that this is when some of my best ideas come to the surface and it really clears my head. Other outdoor activities like raking leaves and tending to a garden are great ideas as well! When you’re spending time in the sun, the added Vitamin D will lift your mood and hopefully take away bad food cravings. So really make an effort to bundle up if necessary and make it outside every day. But if the weather is horrible or you can’t make it out, another good option is to pop in an exercise video at home and get those endorphins pumping!
#4 – Get Enough Sleep
When I don’t get enough sleep I want to eat everything in the house! I notice that I’m way more hungry throughout the day and my cravings are through the roof! So, do whatever you need to do to make sure that you’re sleeping enough each night. This will naturally boost serotonin levels, turn off the hunger hormones, and when your body has enough time to recharge you will probably find that your cravings are not as intense. Having a newborn in the house, this is definitely a tip I’ll be personally working on!
#5 – Buddy Up!
Sometimes just talking about your cravings with someone in the same situation is all you need to stay on track. If you know that someone is holding you accountable and rooting you on, it’s much easier to stick to your goals and be successful!
That’s why I built a support system like this into the Food Babe 7-Day Sugar Detox Program. As soon as you join here, you’ll be welcomed into our Private Forum with open arms, where you can connect with other members on the sugar detox. This is a place where we privately share our experiences without judgment – since a lot of us are all facing the same type of struggles and bad food cravings! We answer questions and share our success stories. When you surround yourself with people who share the same goals and help to keep you accountable, you will succeed.
This program provides the plan, the support, and the community you need to ditch refined sugar in a way that makes it practically impossible to fail! I’ll give you real life emergency strategies for when you feel like you can’t live without sugar and have crazy uncontrollable cravings – especially at those times when you are at work sitting at your desk and at night. You will receive detailed online guides and videos to walk you through the 7-Day Sugar Detox, along with all the personal support you need. You’ll know exactly what to eat, what not to eat and what to do after the detox is over.
I invite you to join us here now.
Sugar and Sleep: Is Sugar Keeping You From a Good Night’s Rest?
Sugar and Sleep: How Sugar Impacts Your Sleep
Who doesn’t love to bite into an after-dinner dessert? The very thought will make hundreds drool. But, did you know that digging into your scrumptious dessert, cookies, or bowl of ice cream translates to feeding lots of added sugar into your body and this can impact the way you sleep.
In fact, studies suggest that the more sugar that you consume through the day, the more often you are bound to wake up in the middle of the night. And, even if you do not find yourself waking up a dozen times in the night, the sugar running in your system can drag you out a deep slumber, and leave you feeling exhausted the next day.
According to a study conducted at Columbia University, people who ate a lot of sugar through the day reported more arousals without actually being awakened – than those who ate less sweetened food. These people also reported to feeling chronically wiped out, due to the fact that they are pulled back into a lighter and less restorative stage of sleep.
That is not all, consuming way too much sugar through the day can also lead to a crash in energy. Have you ever wondered why you feel like taking an afternoon siesta after chowing down on a brownie topped with chocolate syrup? Eating too much sugar tends to reduce the activity of orexin cell, which will make you feel drowsy. Now, you have your answer!
To avoid nap-inducing energy dips, you will have to do all it takes to keep your blood sugar levels steady. If you can regulate your sugar levels, you will be able to keep your energy levels even and balanced throughout the day and will also help you stick to a normal sleep schedule. If you slowly cut back on your sugar intake, you will wake up more, well-rested.
So, what is it that you must avoid to sleep sound, is to avoid refined sugar! This is the main culprit that knocks your blood sugar levels off balance. You can find refined sugar in your soda, barbecue sauces, breakfast cereals, desserts, juices, and even canned fruits. You will be surprised to know that refined sugar finds its way into white bread, regular pasta, and even white rice. When you cut back on these foods and replace them with whole grains and complex carbs, you will not just improve the nutritional value of what you eat, but also will help you sleep better at night.
Want to eat better and sleep more? Experts opine that cutting down on sugar and eating more fiber will induce deep, slow wave sleep, as fiber can slow down digestion and doesn’t trigger a spike in blood sugar levels like carbs do. A few painless tweaks in your diet can help you sleep better and feel more energized.
You Should Never Eat These Foods Before Bed
It’s 10 p.m. and you’re all set to get a good night’s rest, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to shake that gnawing feeling of an empty stomach. But with so many choices in your pantry and fridge, healthy or otherwise, it’s tough to decide which one you should choose.
Though there are some snacks that you would (and should) easily reach for during the daytime, choosing the wrong late-night food can damage the quality of your sleep while also sabotaging any weight loss goals that you have set for yourself. And because your body repairs your muscles while you sleep, it’s important to get a peaceful night of rest to build up your muscles and prepare for the next day’s workout.
So, what are the worst foods that you can eat at night? And what are some alternatives to these foods, just in case you’re craving that specific flavor? Here are the top five foods you shouldn’t reach for if you’re looking to get some quality sleep.
1. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate won’t help you sleep. | iStock.com
Though you may snack on dark chocolate during the day when you’re craving something sweet, it’s one of the top foods that can keep you awake for hours after your bedtime. Health states that dark chocolate is one of the healthiest forms of chocolate that you can put in your body because of its high levels of antioxidants, but if you’re sensitive to caffeine, then it may keep you up. Half of a Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bar contains 20 milligrams of caffeine, which is the same amount as half an ounce of espresso.
Dark chocolate also contains theobromine, a mild stimulant that promotes alertness for more sustained periods of time than caffeine. Theobromine’s effects are milder than caffeine’s, so you may not even realize that you’re feeling more energized, but when it comes time to sleep, it may be the reason that you can’t.
Try eating carob chips instead of dark chocolate the next time it’s late — they are similar to cocoa in that they come from a pod of a tropical tree, yet they contain no caffeine. Bodybuilding.com suggests eating a handful of these instead of the dark chocolate if you’re looking for that rich, slightly sweet flavor at night.
2. Ice cream and yogurt
Ice cream is a definite no-no. | iStock.com
Ice cream, a food notorious for its high sugar and fat content, should be an obvious no-go when it comes to late-night foods, but yogurt, even of the Greek variety, should also be avoided. Fitness recommends straying away from high-protein foods once the sun goes down, and Greek yogurt can contain as much as 17 grams per single-serving container. The protein here will give you an energy boost, which can result in you getting less sleep. If you’re going with a type of yogurt that isn’t Greek but is instead flavored, then you’ll want to watch out for the sugar content, as eating excess sugar before bed can make it easier for your body to pack on unwanted pounds.
You should avoid ice cream at night because of all of the extra work your digestive system has to do to process the high amount of fat content in the food. Bodybuilding.com says that because of this fat content and your hard-working digestive system, you may experience disturbances in your sleep, and it’s even worse if you’re choosing to eat a flavor of ice cream that contains caffeine, such as coffee or chocolate.
If you’re really craving some dairy before you go to bed, then try eating an ice cream made from rice milk or coconut milk. Today’s Dietitian states there is much less protein in these dairy-free alternatives. Just be sure to watch your portion size and sugar content. You can find pints of these ice creams that have less sugar than ordinary cow’s milk ice cream. Go for plain or vanilla to avoid any excess sugar caused by syrups or flavoring.
Wine will not help you sleep. | iStock.com
Though you may have a few glasses of wine with your dinner and feel slightly drowsy, don’t be fooled. Wine along with other forms of alcohol can lead to a disastrous night of sleep. Amerikanki discusses how the dehydrating effects of alcohol can have a negative effect on repairing muscle growth and restoring energy levels while you’re sleeping. Though you may have felt like you slept the proper number of hours during the night, your body will feel much less restored.
Alcohol is also known to make insomnia worse, so if you’re already having a difficult time sleeping, then you should stop drinking a few hours before you’re aiming to go to bed. If you do indulge in a drink or two before sleep, don’t be surprised to find that you may wake up a few times in the middle of the night, with sleep disruptions occurring with more frequency in the second half of the night.
If you are planning on going out drinking, then try to cut down on the drinks a few hours before your projected bedtime. If you’re just looking for a soothing late-night drink, try sipping on caffeine-free herbal teas such as peppermint or chamomile for their relaxing and stress-relieving properties.
4. Spicy foods
Spicy foods will keep you awake. | Thinkstock
If you find yourself reaching for the Tabasco to put on a nighttime snack (it’s low in sugar and high in flavor, after all), then you may want to reconsider. says the indigestion commonly caused by spicy foods can ruin your chances of getting a good night’s rest. Even if you remain unscathed by the effects spicy food can have on your stomach, you may then fall victim to body temperature changes that can keep you awake.
Capsaicin, an active ingredient in chili peppers, is speculated to be the cause of changes in your sleep because of elevated body temperatures during your first sleep cycle. These changes can cause sleep disruptions that last throughout the entirety of your night. Hot foods have also been linked to the production of more nightmares, so if you find yourself having stranger dreams than usual, then this may be the cause.
Instead of reaching for hot, spicy foods at night, consider crackers made from nuts or stone-ground sesame seeds with a hummus spread. The hummus may have that boost of flavor you’re looking for, and these healthier alternatives to typical crackers will satisfy your hunger. If you’re dead-set on eating something spicy, then try buying a chipotle-style hummus for a little bit of a kick without the sleep disruption.
5. Fried foods
Stay far away from the fried foods. | iStock.com
Fried foods may make you feel lethargic after you eat them, but they ultimately will do more harm to your sleep than good. According to The Huffington Post, foods like fries and chips take a much longer time to digest than other foods — it can take hours to fully digest something that’s fried and high in fat. When you go to bed right after you’ve consumed these types of foods, you may have stomach pains, cramps, and acid reflux, resulting in poor sleep quality.
Even if you decide to snack on something that’s not deep fried, it’s very possible that foods such as sausage, steak, potatoes, tortillas, and high-fat cheeses can also cause sleep disruptions because of their fat content. When consuming these foods, heartburn and abdominal bloating can make it very difficult to fall asleep, so be sure to eat them hours before your bedtime.
If a hearty meal with plenty of texture is what you’re after, then avoid the fried, high-fat foods, and go for complex carbohydrates. Ecowatch suggests whole-grain breads, pastas, and brown rice as healthful snack options. You can also try making baked alternatives to all of your fried favorites. It’s easy to bake up a butternut squash, zucchini, or sweet potato with whole-grain breading for a crunchy and healthy nighttime treat.
For some people, the scariest part of starting off on a new, healthier way of eating is the idea of giving up their favorite sweet treats — forever!
If you’re a cookie-and-candy-craver, don’t despair. Sweets can be part of a healthy, lifelong eating pattern. But for the least harm and — don’t forget this — the fullest enjoyment, they should be eaten in moderation. That means in small amounts, or only a couple of times a week. Even a woman who has made a career out of eating candy admits she has cut back her consumption to one day a week. Hilary Liftin, blessedly svelte and cavity free, wrote the critically acclaimed, tongue-in-cheek memoir Candy &amp;amp; Me: A Love Story.
“Candy’s meaning,” she says, “has more subtlety than its taste. It affords a fleeting spike of pleasure, sometimes guilty or elusive or bittersweet, like an impossible love affair.”
Such romanticization aside, the smorgasbord of candy — not to mention cheeseburgers, cookies, cakes, pies, fries, chips, barbecue, and ice cream — that Americans consume has helped lead to skyrocketing obesity rates and a near-epidemic of diabetes.
So why would anyone in his or her right mind (sorry, Hilary) ever think it’s OK to eat candy, cake, or pie?
“Some choices are better than others,” says Larrian Gillespie, MD, author of The Menopause Diet, The Gladiator Diet, and The Goddess Diet. “You have to know the consequences before you make the choice.”
When asked about the half-pound of candy Liftin reportedly eats in a sitting (only on Fridays, mind you), Gillespie said such a binge would definitely affect insulin levels, stressing the body’s hormone system and leading to a slumpy, tired “crash.” In other words, it might taste good going in, but a price will be paid.
The price: You’ll get hungry again sooner.