What Not to Eat Before Bed: A Hands-On Guide to Foods to Avoid at Night


  • This article discusses which food to avoid before going to bed. It will also tell you their negative impact on sleep and health.
  • Topics we cover include the reason why we recommend avoiding some foods at night. It also examines what not to eat before bed and what you can eat before bed. We also include how eating near bedtime has physical and mental effects.
  • Everyone wants to improve the quality of their sleep. That is why we would like to recommend changes in the foods we choose to eat at night.

Eating is something we all do each day. We are often concerned about what we eat. We are also thinking about our nutrition. However, have you ever thought about the timing of your meals? More importantly, do you ever consider what not to eat before bed? The foods we eat at night have a direct impact on the quality of sleep we get. Sleep impacts our health through different physiological processes. This includes glucose control and digestion. It also affects how our cardiac functions. Glucose control relates to how well your body breaks down sugars. It is related to health disorders like diabetes. Digestion is all about how well your body breaks down food. It also includes how we absorb important nutrients. Cardiac functioning means that your heart is beating in a normal rhythm. This also talks about how your heart’s pathways are clear of build up. We must consider what we eat at dinner and in the later hours of the day. This is because it could have a big effect on our overall well-being. We want to help you sleep better. This is why we would like to help you review the connections between food and sleep. We would like to provide guidance on what foods you should avoid before bed.

Why Are There Foods to Avoid at Night?

What we eat at night impacts our sleep and health in a number of important ways. Eating at night could lead to irregular sleep. This leads to increased risk of obesity and cardiac diseases. It may also lead to metabolic disorders. The nutritional makeup of foods commonly consumed at night is important. This is because it impacts metabolic and circadian rhythms that decrease sleep quality. Eating large meals or a large percentage of your daily nutrients at night is not a good idea. It is connected to weight gain and poor cardiac functioning. The relationship between sleep and eating at night goes both ways. We recommend eating foods that have tryptophan. You may also check out food that helps in the production of serotonin and melatonin. You may see an improvement in sleep. We must try not to have sleep that is poor in quality. It may lead to mental distress and unhealthier eating choices. This in turn will again harm sleep quality.

What Should You Not Eat Before Bed?

Knowing what foods to avoid before bed is an important step. It helps you make healthy eating choices. This in turn will lead to better sleep at night. Carbohydrates have been shown to impact sleep quality. It affects your slow wave sleep (SWS) and resting eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the sleep stage that lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. This happens directly after falling asleep. This stage is associated with memory consolidation. SWS is a deeper stage of sleep. It leads to feeling rested and restored. Food high in carbohydrates appears to increase REM sleep while decreasing SWS. Eating foods like pasta before bed may then change your ability to feel fully rested. This is due to abnormal SWS stages. Foods higher in fat, especially saturated fat, have been shown to lead to more nighttime awakenings. It also leads to worse sleep quality. You might want to avoid eating steak before bed. Replacing it with carrots is a good idea if you are trying to avoid foods that prevent sleep. Finally, foods that are high in acidity, like oranges, could result in acid reflux during the night. This may keep you awake.

What Can You Eat Before Bed?

There are a few foods that can be consumed closer to bedtime. In fact, they may actually aid sleep. We will briefly discuss the benefits of each. We will also talk about how they can help improve your sleep.

Milk
Milk has been shown to improve the amount of time asleep. It may also improve the quality of sleep and its efficiency. The main elements in milk contribute to improved sleep. This includes magnesium and in particular tryptophan. They help produce serotonin in the brain.

Fatty Fish
Consuming fatty fish can increase your levels of Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids. They have been shown to treat sleep disorders. They may also balance energy levels throughout the day and regulate heart rate. They also boost serotonin production. This leads to improved sleep.

Dates
Finally, dates are an excellent choice as a snack closer to bedtime. You won’t have to worry about a negative impact on sleep. As with any snack, moderation is key. Dates are high in carbohydrates. You will want to avoid eating too many. However, there are central benefits for sleep throughout the day. This includes the decreased chance of constipation. It also helps with appetite control.  This is due to the dietary fiber present in dates. The protein in these foods also has a great effect on you. It will help keep you full throughout the night.

The Mental and Physical Impact of Binging Near Bedtime

We recommend avoiding foods that prevent sleep. Some also cut down on bedtime binge eating. They will have both physical and mental effects on your health. There are two main binging behaviors that impact quality of sleep. These include binge eating and binge screen timer. We must avoid eating large amounts of food, especially close to bedtime hours. This will improve your body’s processing of glucose or sugar. It enhances how we spend energy. It regulates our gastrointestinal tract by reducing indigestion. Binge screen time at night can also have other negative effects on sleep quality. The light emitted from screens suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep. Thus, binge screen time negatively influences the normal physiological reactions that prepare us for sleep. Melatonin production at night is important. It alerts your body that it is time for bed. Studies have shown that poor sleep quality is bad for our health. It leads to increased risk of depression and anxiety symptoms. It is also detrimental to our general well-being.

Avoiding certain foods at night can have important effects on your quality of sleep. We recommend staying away from mixed meals that contain carbohydrates, fats, and sugar. Meanwhile consuming foods that contain amino acid tryptophan will help you sleep better. Also, we must avoid not binge eating or binging screen time before sleeping. This is so that we produce melatonin. These are vital for good sleep. Nutrition and sleep can ensure you stay healthy mentally and physically. How will you change your dinner and nighttime eating routine to get better sleep?

Summary

Nutrition and eating behaviors near bedtime will impact your quality of sleep. Protect your sleep by avoiding carbohydrates, sugars, and high fat foods during the evening hours. Cut down on binge eating and screen time binging to see beneficial effects on your sleep. Changing your bedtime binging nighttime behaviors will help your mental and physical health.

Scientific Information

  • Resting Eye Movement (REM) Sleep – the sleep stage that occurs about an hour to an hour and a half after falling asleep, during which we typically have vivid dreams.

  • Tryptophan – an amino acid that the body uses to produce neurotransmitters important for sleep.

  • Melatonin – a hormone produced in the pineal gland that controls the body’s sleep and wake cycles.

Written by:

Eleanor Beale, MA

Clinical Psychology

Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian
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