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4 Foods That Interrupt Sleep

Written by
September 20, 2018
Updated May 15, 2020

When something or someone messes with your sleep, they might as well be messing with your kids, your pets, or your bank account. People who value their fitness take sleep deadly serious, and can’t stand to lose any. That’s because they know that solid sleep is critical for thinking clearly, being in a good mood, and staying healthy.

Even if you’re already one of the aforementioned health zealots, there are some foods and beverages you’re almost certainly consuming closer to bedtime than you should, and they’re screwing with your sleep cycles. Banish these items from your menu after the sun goes down, and give your body the Z’s it deserves. 

#1 Alcohol

No one disputes that drinking booze can help you relax, but getting to sleep is a different story. Alcohol disrupts REM sleep, the stage that’s necessary for memory, motor skills, and concentration. Research from 2013 found that drinking shortly before bed made snoring worse and, consequently, made breathing more labored. Of course, you’re going to drink some nights, but for the best possible sleep, avoid it entirely. The researchers explained that any amount of alcohol is detrimental to a good night’s rest.

#2 Cheese

What you eat for dinner can come back to haunt you—literally. A 2015 study concluded that food can affect dreams and influence terrifying nightmares—the kind that make you wake up in a cold sweat. The researchers wrote that “dairy products were by far the most frequently named instigator of both bizarre and disturbing dreams.” They even cited the popularity of an early 20th century newspaper comic strip, The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, in which Welsh Rarebit—a spicy cheese dish—induced nightmares in those who consumed it.

#3 Hot Sauce

Peppers, mustards, horseradish, and other spicy foods can add a lot of kick to bland fare like chicken breast, broccoli, and rice, making a strict diet a lot more bearable. But if you consume them within a few hours of bedtime, the heat they bring can cook your chances of a good night’s sleep. An Australian study found that Tabasco sauce and mustard eaten with an evening meal raised the subjects’ body temperature, resulting in an increase in the total time they spent awake and a delay in falling asleep.

#4 Water

Of course water is healthy for you, and most of us don’t get enough. But downing a glass or more of any fluid shortly before bed increases the chances that you’ll have to get up to pee in the middle of the night. This interruption can throw off your sleep cycles, and may cause you to not fall back asleep at all. If this describes you, recommends avoiding drinking water for three hours before bedtime.

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