We’ll try pretty much anything in our quest for a decent night’s sleep. Melatonin supplements? Been there, done that. Gravity blanket? Promising, but too hot for our liking. We even resorted to adult bedtime stories (surprisingly effective, actually). And while we all know to limit caffeine and heavy meals before bed, registered dietician Karman Meyer recently revealed a few more surprising ingredients to avoid in her new book, Eat to Sleep. Here, five foods that could cause major sleep disturbances.
You already know that an espresso before bed is a bad idea. But what about dark chocolate? On the plus side, this tasty treat has loads of antioxidants, but it also contains caffeine, Meyer cautions. (Reminder: Caffeine is a stimulant that increases alertness and awareness—not exactly what you’re looking for when you’re settling down for the evening). And if you’re thinking that your 80-percent dark chocolate is a better option than 60 percent, think again. The higher the cacao content and the darker the chocolate, then the more caffeine it has. But there’s no need to miss out on your favorite dessert entirely—just avoid dark chocolate four to five hours before going to bed.
Here’s the thing: Staying hydrated is key. Dehydration can make your mouth and nasal passages dry, making it more likely for you to snore—a major sleep-disrupter. It can also lead to muscle cramping, which may cause you to wake up throughout the night. And while not drinking enough water throughout the day is a definite factor (FYI, women should aim for 90 fluid ounces), avoiding high-sodium foods can also help prevent dehydration. That means limiting soy sauce, frozen meals and processed foods like canned soups, chips and salted nuts. Try loading up on hydrating food choices like cucumber, grapefruit and watermelon instead.
Pasta with tomato sauce is one of our favorite dinners, but if you find yourself frequently experiencing heartburn in the evening, it could be to blame. (The same rules apply for that pizza Margherita.) Tomato-based sauce and citrus fruits contain a lot of acids, which can back up into your esophagus when your stomach tries to digest it. Our tip? Save the pasta for lunchtime instead.
You might think that a glass of Merlot will lull you into a deep slumber, but it can actually hinder you from entering the deep stages of sleep, Meyer says. That’s because alcohol makes you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night and can also exacerbate snoring. If you tend to have a couple of glasses of wine with your evening meal and are struggling to get quality sleep, take a week or two off and see if you wake up feeling more rested. And if you do want a drink in the evening (no judgment), enjoy it with dinner at least three to four hours before going to bed, advises Meyer.
Crashing on the couch with your favorite Thai curry is your Friday night ritual. But if a good night’s sleep is what you’re after, then you may want to limit your go-to takeaway to lunchtime instead. Spicy foods can cause acid reflux, which can actually get worse if you lie down right after eating. (So, you know, maybe go easy on the hot sauce, too.)