5 Sneaky Foods That Are Sabotaging Your Sleepytime

updated May 30, 2019
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If you want a good night’s rest, you know to avoid the big three: caffeine, sugar, and booze. That means no late-night cup of coffee, decadent dessert, or nightcap. And, while hotels may leave a square of chocolate on the pillow, eating it before bed will also interfere with your sleep (chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is full of caffeine).

But what about more unlikely foods that may disrupt your rest? We spoke to sleep experts to find out five unexpected items that can get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

1. Wasabi peas

It’s not just a snack of wasabi peas that’s a problem. A late-night curry meal, buffalo chicken wings, or any other spicy food can affect your sleep. In an Australian study, subjects who piled on mustard and Tabasco sauce at dinnertime experienced disturbed sleep, spending less time in deep sleep mode.

Not only are spicy foods stimulating (sending your body “wake up” signals), but they’re also associated with heartburn and acid reflux, says Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, Fellow, American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

2. Eggplant

Yes, eggplant is delicious and versatile — but the vegetable also has a stimulating effect. “Eggplants contain elevated amounts of the amino acid tyramine, which causes increased levels of norepinephrine which is a stimulant that can delay sleep,” explains Nate Watson, MD, MS, SleepScore Labs advisory board member.

3. Cucumbers

Crisp cucumbers may make for a healthy snack, but their high water content makes them problematic. Just like chugging a pre-bed pint of water, cucumbers could lead to increased urine production, says Watson. And that means disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. So snack wisely, and avoid cucumbers, celery, and other veggies (and fruits!) with high water content.

4. Grapefruit

Enjoy grapefruit earlier in the day, since the high acidic content in this tart fruit can cause heartburn at night, says Watson. That’s especially true if GERD is already an issue for you.

5. A bacon cheeseburger

Any heavy meal right before bedtime is bound to be a problem, not just a bacon cheeseburger. “Don’t have a dinner-sized meal before bed,” says Schneeberg. Your body has to extend energy to digest, and a heavy meal can lead to indigestion, she says. About that bacon cheeseburger: While rich, heavy food should be avoided, bacon (and other cured, smoked, or processed meats) is a particular no-no. Like eggplant, it contains tyramine, and will lead to the release of a stimulant that will interfere with your rest.