3 Things to Avoid if You Want to Sleep Better at Night

by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 2 minutes

When the sting of heartburn strikes at half past two (a.m.!), or you toss and turn for hours at bedtime, distracted by rumbling in your stomach, it may be time to think about how diet is affecting your sleep. What you’re eating – and when you’re eating it – could be keeping you from getting the rest you need. The good news is, restful slumber sometimes can be restored with a few simple diet and lifestyle changes. Here are three things to avoid to get a better night’s sleep.

3 Things to Avoid for Better Sleep

Don’t eat 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
If you’re plagued by late-night heartburn, it’s best to avoid big meals just before bedtime, as they can aggravate undesirable reflux symptoms. Evening eating doesn’t give your stomach enough time to digest and move food out of your stomach into your small intestine before you lie prone. Unfortunately, this can create digestive discomfort, as gastric acids wash upward into your esophagus instead of staying put in your stomach.

Heartburn symptoms can include uncomfortable chest pain, sore throat, sinus irritation, a burning sensation in the mouth, difficulty swallowing and a low-grade cough. Food triggers include alcohol, spicy foods, citrus, cranberry juice, caffeine, soda, vinegar and coffee. Fatty foods take a long time to digest, so eating these foods shortly before bed could also aggravate heartburn. If you get home late and need to eat, prepare a light meal like a cup of soup with some crackers.

Don’t eat just a light salad for dinner.
Eating some complex carbohydrates like brown rice or quinoa with dinner can help support the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter serotonin.

If you eat just a light salad, you may have trouble nodding off due to a possible increase in cortisol (stress hormone) levels. The body naturally increases cortisol to keep blood sugar levels even while you sleep. Eating carbs will help keep cortisol levels down, but when your blood sugar drops, cortisol comes to the rescue to ensure that your central command system, your brain, has the sugar it needs to keep functioning all night. In the early morning hours, when you need to wake up, cortisol naturally peaks, and when you eat breakfast it drops.

Don’t ingest stimulants like espresso, coffee, and chocolate before bed.
Most people don’t sleep well when they top off their meal with an espresso or a slice of triple-layer chocolate cake. Caffeine does not promote restful sleep. If you want to occasionally indulge in these delicious treats, have them earlier in the day so that your body has time to process and break down the caffeine.