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Last Updated on September 26, 2022

12 Foods That Can Keep You Awake At Night (Besides Caffeine)

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12 Foods That Can Keep You Awake At Night (Besides Caffeine)

If you ever find yourself restless at night, it could be because of something you just ate. Not every meal qualifies as a good late-night meal, and many foods have hidden ingredients and properties that can actually keep you up, causing you sleeping trouble, which can be annoying and uncomfortable.

When it comes to some of the foods that keep you awake, you’d be surprised to find that certain vegetables can cause your tossing and turning. I have made a list of 12 such foods that can keep you awake at night, so you know to avoid them if you aren’t trying to stay awake too long.

Let’s dive in.

12 Foods That Can Keep You Awake At Night

1. Alcohol

Now, this can be a bit confusing, as alcohol might put people to sleep if taken just before bedtime. But alcohol does not qualify as a depressant. When people fall asleep after drinking alcohol, they do not get the best quality sleep for that night and end up waking between sleep periods.

The circadian rhythm of the body is one of the ways in which the body regulates sleep. Alcohol interferes with this rhythm, giving the body a bit of difficulty knowing when it is bedtime and when it is not.

A published study confirms that alcohol might reduce sleep time, having a negative impact on REM sleep.[1]

REM is short for rapid eye movement sleep. This is an important phase of sleep where there are random and rapid eyeball movements. This phase is essential for healthy rest.

Every healthy human being requires at least seven hours of REM sleep every night, and alcohol may have a negative impact on that, hence, reducing the quality of rest you get every night.[2]

2. Fatty Foods

There is evidence that fatty foods have a negative impact on your sleep. In 2016, a study agreed that taking large amounts of saturated fats made sleep feel superficial and insufficient. [3]

This happens because our digestive systems are not very active when we are asleep. So, fatty meals can cause a bit of a problem when you’re ready to turn in for the night because it’s difficult to digest.

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Avoid greasy and heavy foods like fried chicken, french fries, mozzarella sticks, and potato chips

3. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are considered to contain large amounts of spices like chili peppers, mustards, curry, etc. Spices illicit a sensation that borders around pain and pleasure.

As tasty as spicy foods may be, they are not exactly good for bedtime as they will keep you awake at night. There are many reasons why this happens. Some include indigestion, acid reflux, and heartburn.

In 2019, a study found that spices do impact the quality of sleep negatively.[4]

When you have a meal rich in spices, you may notice a slight increase in your temperature. This increase might be small, but it does affect sleep. For the body to properly initiate sleep, it has to maintain a temperature between 66 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above or below this range may impact sleep negatively. [5]

Rich spicy meals can also affect people with digestive problems like peptic ulcers or heartburn, as they can cause very uncomfortable sensations. With peptic ulcers, spicy foods are going to cause pain. And with heartburn, spicy foods may cause a bit of discomfort around the chest area.

This discomfort might keep you awake for longer hours, interrupting your sleep time.

If you must have spicy food, keep some space between your bedtime and the time you consume the food.

4. Celery

Celery is such a rich vegetable. It contains virtually everything you need, from vitamins to antioxidants, etc. It can also reduce inflammation.

But here is why it passes as a food that can keep you awake at night: It has diuretic properties. Many consider the meal a natural diuretic.[6]

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This means after a meal of celery, you may want to use the bathroom more often. Disruptions in sleep like this will surely impact the quality of your sleep.

5. Foods Containing a Lot of Salt

Salt makes food tastier. A meal without the right amount of salt will make you not want to go on with eating. Similarly, a meal without too much salt will negatively impact your sleep.

An article published by the European Society of Endocrinology agrees that salt impacts the quality of night sleep a person gets. This article discovered that people who eat salt-rich foods before bedtime had more “superficial” sleep and were prone to sleep disturbances. [7]

They either woke up earlier than usual or woke up in the middle of the night to drink water. They woke up feeling less satisfied and wanted to sleep more during the day, as they felt a bit drowsy and sleep-deprived.

The reason this happens is that salt causes water retention, especially when taken in large quantities.

Give some gap between when you take salty foods and when you fall asleep.

I’d add that salt has an impact on blood pressure. It is best you stay away from salty foods if you have any issues with your heart. [8]

An increase in blood volume, which closely follows the intake of large amounts of salt, will put more demand on your heart tissues. Also, stay away from salt if you have underlying kidney issues.

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

Some examples of cruciferous vegetables include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts . These vegetables are essential for your body and must include veggies in your meals as they add so much to your body.

But the problem is they may reduce your sleep and keep you awake at night because they will have you feeling fuller, just like beans.

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The indigestible sugars in cruciferous vegetables can also make you bloat since the body has a bit of a problem breaking them down.[9]

Instead of some late-night vegetables, why don’t you just stick to having vegetables for breakfast or lunch?

7. Beans

Beans are one of the richest edible legumes out there. It is loaded with health benefits as it contains a high amount of protein and just enough fiber.

At the same time, ironically, it can have a negative impact on your sleep.

For many people, eating beans causes “gassing,” a feeling of being fuller than you normally would. You will definitely have problems with sleeping better at night when you feel too full like you have to use the bathroom every three minutes. [10]

Having much gas in your stomach may make you burp more and may also make finding a comfortable sleep position quite stressful. If you must have beans, then try to have beans for lunch. When sleep time nears, then it is time to have only foods that don’t make you gas.

Having foods containing fiber may improve your sleep, especially if you do not have gas problems after eating fiber-rich foods.

8. Dairy Products

This is especially true in people who have lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance, simply put, is an impaired ability to digest lactose. It is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase.

Lactose intolerance presents symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and sometimes diarrhea when people take products rich in lactose. It is best to avoid dairy products or anything containing a high amount of lactose, particularly when it is time to go to bed.

You should also avoid drinking much milk, even if you have lactose intolerance, as it might keep you feeling full for long periods after taking them.

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9. Meat (Cured Meats)

When it comes to foods to stay away from at night, cured meats should be top of the list if you have asthma symptoms.

A study has shown that processed meat may worsen asthma symptoms, and since asthma symptoms are worse at night, this spells trouble boldly. [11]

Processed meats are rich in tyramine; this is an amino acid that causes the release of norepinephrine from the body.

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that prepares the body to act. It is lowest when we are at sleep. So, any substance that increases its concentration during bedtime might significantly disrupt sleep.

10. Foods With a High Glycemic Index

Foods with a high glycemic index, simply put, are foods that increase our blood sugar levels. They can span across various meals, like bread, processed meals, foods rich in processed sugar, etc.

Eating foods that contain a rich amount of processed sugar has been linked, and rightly so, with insomnia. [12] The rise and fall in your sugar levels make your body release hormones that can cause disruptions in your sleep by altering hormone levels in your body.

If you have diabetes, high sugar food can cause you to want to pee more often—that means you will wake up from sleep more, which disrupts sleep quality.

11. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are anti-inflammatory foods that help boost immunity, but just like processed meat, tomatoes contain a large amount of tyramine. [13]

This protein causes your brain to release the neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, making your brain more active than it should be when you are asleep. [14]

12. Water

You may already know about this, but water can hinder your sleep. If you drink a lot of water just before bedtime, you will feel full and urged to use the bathroom. Waking up in between naps can reduce the quality of your sleep.

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Final Thoughts

Sleep is a valuable thing that our bodies need, so we should try our best to get as much sleep as possible. If you’re having problems sleeping at night, look at the 12 foods on this list, and you might find the cause.

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.com via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Sara Leandro

Sara Leandro is a certified health coach who helps people make lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals.

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