Legend has it cheese gives you nightmares. But does it really? And if cheese does give you nightmares. What foods can you eat before bed, and what foods should you avoid. Well, wonder no more, and sleep better because of it. Here’s our top 10 foods you can eat before bed, and our top 10 foods to avoid.
- Bananas – Bananas have a high carbohydrate content, as you’ll see with some of the other foods we suggest carbohydrates can be good before bed as they can help you fall asleep faster. Bananas are also digested quickly, this is also a good thing, as you don’t want your body working overtime trying to digest food during the night, you want it shutting down for sleep. Finally bananas are high in magnesium, which is known to reduce stress, improve mood and promote relaxation and sleep.
- Almonds – Like bananas, almonds are high in magnesium, they are also a good source of melatonin, which is a mineral that naturally occurs in the body and aids sleep. It’s hard to drift off to sleep if you’re hungry and your stomach is rumbling. Almonds are protein-rich, and protein makes you feel fuller for longer, right through the night. So all round, almonds are a great choice for a late night snack.
- Honey – We use energy as we sleep and one reason we may wake during the night is if we run low on energy. It sounds crazy but it’s true. Honey helps keep glycogen stores stocked up. Glycogen is fuel for the brain. So a good stock of glycogen through the night keeps the brain to work through the night. Honey also helps the body to produce melatonin. Honey, in raw form, also helps reinforce the immune system, as well as many other help benefits.
- Oats – Again oats are a great source of melatonin, and magnesium. They are also a low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate, that make you feel full, satiated and a comfortable type of drowsy at bed time. As oats are a complex low GI carbohydrate primarily, they burn slowly through the night.
- Turkey – Turkey may seem like an odd choice before bed, but trust us, it’s a good option. Turkey is one of the best sources out there for tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin in the body, both of which play an important role in sleep. Turkey is also a good source of protein which gives you a nice full feeling.
- Sweet Potato – Here we have another complex carbohydrate, like oats, making it another good food choice. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of potassium, a relaxant, and magnesium.
- Rice – The theory as to why rice is a good food before bed is again linked to its ability to stimulate tryptophan. As rice is a carbohydrate, albeit with a higher glycemic index than oats or sweet potato for example, the body has an easier time breaking it down and digesting it than, say foods that are very very high in protein or fat.
- Fish – Rich in omega-3, fish is linked to improved IQ, and also improved, restful sleep. Fish such as salmon and tuna are also rich in, you guessed it, tryptophan.
- Cherries – If the thoughts of tucking in to a nice plate of fish before bed turns your stomach, maybe you’ll find a nice bowl of cherries more palatable. Cherries are one of a few select foods that act as a natural source of melatonin.
- Kiwi – Stuffed with vitamins and minerals, kiwis are a real superfood with many health benefits. Rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and fibre, when it comes to sleep kiwis pack their punch thanks to their potassium, magnesium and serotonin contents.
Top 10 Foods to Avoid Before Bed
That's the good choices covered, now let's take a look at some options that are best avoided.
- Cheese – So does cheese give you nightmares? The question on everyone’s lips! Yes and no unfortunately is the answer. It certainly is not good for sleep that’s for sure. Cheese is high in fat, and fat digestion is more arduous for the body than say the digestion of carbohydrates. This can keep you in the REM part of sleep for longer during the night, it is during REM sleep when we dream most vividly, and those dreams may not always be pleasant. So there you have it, nightmares are a maybe, but a negative effect on overall sleep quality is a strong possibility.
- Fatty Foods – Not to single out just cheese, all fatty foods are generally a bad idea for the same reason above. They make your body work overtime when it comes to digestion. They can also cause excessive bloating and indigestion. Tempting and all as it might be, a late night bag of chips is a bad idea in our book.
- Spicy Foods – As with fatty foods, spicy foods can cause bloating and indigestion, not the perfect conditions for a sound night’s sleep. Capsaicin, an active compound in chilli peppers which are naturally present in spicy foods, also raises body temperature, which is counter-productive to a pleasant sleep.
- Chocolate – This is likely very bad news for a lot of you, but yes chocolate is bad for sleep. Chocolate contains stimulants such as theobromine and caffeine that not only make it harder to fall asleep, they can have a negative effect on overall sleep quality. The darker the chocolate the worse it is likely to be, so if you find at absolutely impossible to sit down in the evening to watch some TV without a few squares of chocolate or a couple of chocolate biscuits, at the very least stick to milk chocolate and steer clear of darker varieties.
- Red Meat – There are positives to red meat as well as negatives. Just don’t eat it right before you go to bed. Like fatty foods, red meat is hard work for your body to break down and digest disrupting sleep quality.
- Pizza – Not just fatty but potentially spicy too, pizza is a really bad idea before bed. Given that it’s a late night snack that may are partial too, we felt it deserved special mention.
- Tomato – A healthy food in general, tomato is just a poor choice at night. Tomatoes are acidic which can cause heartburn and indigestion, not what you want when going to bed. Oh and also, as if pizza wasn’t already bad enough, tomatoes are also a key ingredient in pizza.
- Ice Cream – Another usual suspect for movie nights and so on, there are a few reasons as to why ice cream is best avoided late in the evening. Ice cream is a fatty dairy food that can sit heavily on the stomach, it’s also a sugary food and sugary foods are likely to disrupt sleep.
- Alcohol – Ok so not a food, but alcohol is something quite often consumed in the evening, so definitely worthy of mention. There probably aren’t enough words to put you off alcohol, nor would we try. Suffice it to say whilst alcohol can make you sleepy and drowsy, and may even help you to get to sleep quickly, but it can result in poorer quality shallower sleep.
- Coffee – Ok so again not a food, given coffee’s high caffeine content it is a poor choice at night when the prospect of sleep is just around the corner. Other high caffeine foods and drinks should similarly be avoided. Chocolate, as mentioned already, as well as tea (both black and green tea) as well as certain fizzy drinks.