Can’t Sleep? Avoid These Foods And Drinks That Keep You Up at Night

People may struggle to sleep for all sorts of reasons, such as stress, medications, or caffeine. But many don’t consider the food they eat. Your late-night dinner or snacks could determine how well you rest throughout the night.

Some drinks have caffeine that will cycle through your body for eight hours. Certain foods are too high in fat or sugar, which keeps the body awake. Even some fruits can cause recklessness in some people. According to research, if you want a restful sleep, don’t eat these foods and drinks at night.

If You Eat Cereal At Night, Avoid High-Sugar Ones

What’s better than a bowl of cereal as a late-night snack? A healthy bowl of cereal. Many products contain sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, and these can disrupt your sleep. During a 2016 study, participants with a high-sugar diet experienced more restlessness at night.

Two cereal bowls, one empty and one full, sit on a small table at night.

Despite popular belief, the carbohydrates in cereal are perfectly fine. Alan Barclay, a spokesman for the Dietitians Association of Australia, says that there’s no evidence that carbs disrupt sleep. If you eat a bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, you should sleep soundly.

Any Fried Meat Could Make You Restless

Over 25% of Americans eat fried food every day. If you decide to do so, have it during lunch, not dinner. Researchers have connected fried food to poor sleep. According to the University of Adelaide, people who eat fatty foods (i.e., fried food) are more likely to report sleeplessness.

Fries and fried chicken are on a tray at a restaurant.
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This diet can also affect your lifestyle factors. The Michigan Head and Neck Institute explains that fried food-eaters tend to sleep more during the day and watch TV at night. The result is an awkward sleep schedule that will leave people tired.

Avoid Eating Ice Cream Right Before Bed

If you’ve eaten ice cream late at night, you’re not alone. It’s a favorite dessert, but it can wreck sleep. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, foods with high fat, low fiber, and high sugar lead to restlessness. That’s ice cream in a nutshell.

A woman eats ice cream at night.

Since many people prefer ice cream at night, some companies have created desserts to aid sleep. Nightfood brand ice cream contains some melatonin, less fat, and less sugar. This could be a better option for people with a sweet tooth, says Dr. Michael Grandner, the director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University Arizona College.

Like Coffee, Soda Can Wake You Up

Soda may not have as much caffeine as coffee, but it still disrupts sleep. In 2016, scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, tested the effect of sugary drinks. High-sugar drinks, such as soda, keep people awake at night. Plus, sodas usually have some caffeine.

A woman lies awake in bed.
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According to the researchers, a lack of sleep encourages people to drink more sugary treats. It leads to a vicious cycle. “There may be a positive feedback loop where sugary drinks and sleep loss reinforce one another,” says lead study author Aric Prather. To end this cycle, avoid drinking soda at night.

The Only Time When You Shouldn’t Drink Water

Should you drink plenty of water? Yes. Should you drink it all right before bed? Definitely not. “If you drink too much before bed, you may find yourself waking up multiple times in the middle for the night to urinate,” registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade told MSN.

A man drinks from a glass of water while lying in bed.
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Dr. Paul Wolff & Tritschler/Corbis via Getty Images

How late is too late? According to Palinski-Wade, you should fill up on water about three hours before bed. This will keep you hydrated but prevent you from having to urinate in the middle of the night. Plus, sleeping with a belly full of water is simply uncomfortable.

Put Down Those Salty Potato Chips

It’s no secret that potato chips are salt bombs. But many don’t know that salty snacks can ruin your rest. According to osteopathic medicine doctor Sandra Darling, salty food increases your blood pressure and fluid retention. As a result, chips can make you feel restless and uncomfortable at night.

A bowl of chips is set out next to a candle at night.
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Mike Coppola/Getty Images for TBS

Salty chips can also prompt you to urinate more. A 2017 study found that salty snacks make people wake up throughout the night to go to the bathroom. If you want a healthy late-night TV snack, avoid potato chips.

Never Eat Watermelon After 7:00 PM

Watermelon does not contain any chemicals or nutrients that inhibit sleep. But it does have a lot of water. Watermelons are 92% water, and that extra hydration could make you wake up. You don’t want to interrupt sleep a couple of times per night to urinate.

Two girls eat slices of watermelon
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Getty Images

Watermelon can also slow down the digestion process, which could keep the body awake. Nutritionist Shilpa Arora advises against eating watermelon after 7:00 PM. “The best time to eat watermelon is around 12:00 to 1:00 PM when the digestion rate is high and active,” she told NDTV Food.

Energy Drinks Stay In Your System For Eight Hours

Even if you consume an energy drink early in the afternoon, it could still impact your sleep schedule. The average energy drink container has between 100 mg and 350 mg of caffeine, with other ingredients that many companies refuse to list. According to a study in Nature and Science of Sleep, energy drink caffeine can stay in your system for over eight hours.

Cans and packages of Redbull are stacked.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2014, scientists connected highly caffeinated beverages–including energy drinks–to low sleep quality. Some of the worst offenders are Monster, BANG, and Rockstar. Drink with caution.

Coconut Oil’s Saturated Fats Keep You Awake

Coconut oil is a popular cooking ingredient, but only use it during the day. Its contents can disturb sleep. One is hexadecanoic acid, a type of saturated fat. In 2013, research in the Journal of Sleep Research concluded that hexadecanoic acid interferes with rest.

Coconut oil is scooped out of a coconut half.
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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Plus, coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, this is bad news for sleep. Diets high in saturated fat lead to “lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.” At night, cook with olive oil or avocado oil instead.

Tomatoes And Tomato Sauces Are Too Acidic

If you’re prone to heartburn, avoid tomatoes before bed. Raw tomatoes contain malic and citrus acids, both of which contribute to acid reflux. When you lie down, heartburn worsens. Eating tomatoes can “wreak havoc” on your ability to rest deeply, says registered dietician Amanda Kostro.

A hovering can of tomato sauce pours onto meatballs.
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Getty Images

The same goes for tomato-based sauces. According to Manhattan Gastroenterology, condiments such as marinara sauce and ketchup are also acidic. However, you can make tomato sauce less acidic. You can heat a bit of sugar or onion in the sauce to soak up some of the acids.

Don’t Eat Too Much Chocolate During Dessert

Bad news for dessert-lovers: chocolate may prevent you from catching your full eight hours. The National Sleep Foundation advises against eating chocolate before bed because of its caffeine content. If the chocolate is dark, it will supply more caffeine.

A woman eats a piece of dark chocolate.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The scientific journal Cureus explains that the truth is more complicated. Dark chocolate contains theobromine, a cardiac stimulant that can make you feel energized. However, it also provides magnesium, a nutrient that can aid rest. If you only eat a piece of dark chocolate, it may aid sleep.

Chili Peppers May Give You Heartburn

There’s nothing wrong with eating a spicy dinner, but you may want to avoid chili peppers right before bed. Capsaicin, the active component in chili, can cause heartburn. Ayurveda expert Ashutosh Gautam says that spicy foods can irritate the stomach, which worsens when you lie down. If you wait a few hours between dinner and bedtime, you should be fine.

A man experiences heartburn in bed.
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Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Chili peppers can also raise your body temperature, explains registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. If you toss and turn because you can’t seem to cool down, don’t eat spicy meals at night.

Even Decaf Coffee Can Keep You Up

It seems like common sense: the caffeine in coffee will keep you awake. But what about decaffeinated coffee? Sleep expert Matthew Walker argues that decaf coffee can have the same effect on sleep. For one thing, decaf drinks still have a small amount of caffeine. Three cups of decaf equal one cup of regular coffee, says Walker.

A Red Rooster is tipped over with decaf coffee beans around it.
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Cardiologist Roberto Corti conducted a study on decaf coffee, and what Walker concluded turned out to be true. “This is speculative, and we need to do further studies, but it may also be that decaf coffee could lead to sleeplessness among occasional drinkers,” he said.

Tabasco Sauce (And Other Spicy Sauces) Will Heat You Up

Are you a hot sauce fan? If so, you may not want to use any late at night. Research in The International Journal of Psychophysiology observed people who poured mustard or Tabasco on their dinner. Participants had a higher body temperature afterward and struggled to sleep.

A person holds a tiny bottle of Tobasco.

Blame capsaicin, a compound in spicy food. It can elevate your body temperature and cause digestive discomfort, depending on how sensitive you are to spicy foods. If you use hot sauce at night, try to do so four hours before bed, recommends WebMD.

Dried Fruits Have Too Much Fiber

Dried fruits provide high fiber and a healthy dose of vitamins. They make great snacks–but not before bed. Registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio says that the high fiber and low water content can keep you up at night. You don’t want to wake up with an upset or rumbling stomach.

A man holds raisins in the palm of his hand.
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That said, some dried fruits may aid sleep in moderation. The Economic Times says that dried prunes are rich in vitamin B6, which helps people catch some shuteye. If you crave a sweet treat before bed, eat one or two pieces of dried prunes.

Green Tea Isn’t Caffeine-Free

Green tea may calm some people down, but it could also stimulate you. This type of tea contains caffeine–not as much as black tea, but still a noticeable amount. According to registered dietitian Lisa Hayim, the tea also supplies theobromine and theophylline. These energize the nervous system and raise your heart rate.

A green tea latte is served on a saucer.
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Matcha is the worst option. It has the highest caffeine content of almost any green tea, carrying a whopping 70 milligrams per teaspoon. That’s about half as much as a cup of coffee, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Save green tea lattes for the morning or afternoon.

Processed Meats Can Worsen Sleep Apnea

Processed meats, such as sandwich meats and hot dogs, are preserved through salting, smoking, or with chemicals. They come with a host of health effects, such as sleeplessness. Research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that processed meats worsen symptoms in sleep apnea patients.

A close-up shows cured meat with some herbs and a spoon.
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David Silverman/Getty Images

One reason could be the high fat in these products. Scientists have consistently linked high fat with poor sleep. An Oxford study suggested that raised cholesterol (which often stems from processed red meats) can obstruct sleep as well. The takeaway? Don’t eat hot dogs or salami before bed.

Skip That Last Glass

Alcoholic drinks can sedate people, which leads many to believe that it helps sleep. But the opposite is true. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the liver struggles to break down alcohol enzymes. While the body works hard, people might toss and turn throughout the night.

A woman sits up awake in bed.
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Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In 2009, research in The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment concluded that happy hour disrupts sleep. Chronic drinking could even lead to insomnia. People with sleep disorders should be extra cautious about what they drink late at night.

Buy Unsalted Nuts Instead

Yes, nuts are healthy–but salted nuts could keep you awake at night. In 2006, the European Society of Endocrinology tested 20 students who ate salted nuts before bed. The nuts not only made them go to bed later, but it also caused many participants to wake up throughout the night.

A scoop dips into a container of salted nuts.
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The good news is that unsalted nuts can help you sleep. According to the journal Scientifica, nuts that are high in magnesium (such as almonds and walnuts) help people sleep better. When buying nuts, opt for a low-sodium or no salt version.

Low-Protein Meals Interrupt Sleep

If you’re working toward a low-protein diet, beware: it may interrupt your sleep. In 2016, researchers at Purdue University observed the effects of a high-protein diet. Participants both lost weight and slept better after a few weeks.

A woman yawns as she sits up awake at night.
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BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

The catch? Don’t eat too much protein right before bed. Sleeping on a full stomach could make acid splash into your esophagus. That will lead to a night of heartburn and discomfort. Also, remember that healthy high-protein diets don’t necessarily mean high calories. You can have lean meals with a high amount of protein.