Food & Nutrition

16 Ways Your Diet Could Be Wrecking Your Sleep

Indulging in soda

Glass of ColaTomophafan/Shutterstock

Not only is most soda loaded with sugar, which can spike your blood glucose level—a condition that will not promote sleep. In addition, many varieties are also high in caffeine. That’s a double whammy when it comes to sleep disruption. Studies indicate that caffeine actually binds to receptors in the body that can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, Purdy points out. She also emphasizes that genetically, some people process caffeine more slowly than others. If you think you might be sensitive to caffeine, it’s best to stop drinking caffeinated beverages much earlier in the day—possibly before midday.

While it’s not the same thing, a warm cup of milk before bed can really help, Shenkman says. It delivers two substances that promote sleep: “With the potent combination of tryptophan and melatonin, milk can be both soothing and sleep promoting,” says Shenkman.

Snacking on junk

Potato chips in open snack bag close upKwangmoozaa/Shutterstock

Low in fiber, high in saturated fat, and loaded with sugar—junk food like donuts and chips spell disaster for a good night’s sleep. According to Kimberly Gomer, RD, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center, studies suggest eating low-fiber, high saturated fat and sugary foods was associated with lighter, less restorative, more wakeful sleep.

No surprise that fruit is a much better option if you want a snack before bed—and kiwis might be the best. Research suggests that kiwi fruit can increase total sleep time and sleep quality, and shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Part of the reason for this benefit could be the fruit’s high antioxidant content (kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C) and serotonin-boosting effects, says Ofer Jacobowitz, MD, PhD, a sleep surgery and sleep medicine specialist. Check out these 13 best tips from sleep doctors.

Eating a greasy meal

Man sitting at the wooden table, eating fish and chips, traditional English dish, tea and sauces near.Alena.Kravchenko/Shutterstock

Have you ever had fish and chips and felt like you swallowed a rock? Deep-fried foods are famously tough to digest. Fat slows the rate of gastric emptying—so food stays in your stomach longer. Dietician Kostro Miller points to research suggesting that fatty foods can disrupt your sleep and your internal body clock (your circadian rhythm), leading to daytime sleepiness and late-night hunger.

Think instead of a meal that induces sound sleep—Thanksgiving. Turkey, chicken, and fish all have tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin. For even more sleep-boosting potential, serve a sweet potato alongside. You’ll get a slow, steady release of carbohydrates to further boost serotonin. Plus, sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, which can help promote muscle relaxation.

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