It’s 3 a.m. … and you’re wide awake. Again. Did you forget something at work? Did you leave the stove on? While these thoughts are enough to keep anyone up at night, the food you ate before bed might be part of what’s really to blame. While there are plenty of snacks that can help you sleep (turkey, anyone?), there are certainly some foods to avoid before bed.
And if weight loss is your goal, getting enough sleep — at least 7-9 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation1 — plays an important part. Deep, restorative sleep helps keep your body’s natural circadian rhythms running smoothly. Because circadian rhythms influence so many of the body’s functions, including your eating habits and digestion2 disrupting them could impact your weight loss. To keep your sleep schedule, circadian rhythms and weight loss on track, consider avoiding these foods, which might make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
Check out the 4 worst foods to eat before bed and rest easy knowing you’ll be making healthy, sleep-friendly food choices from here on out.
The 4 worst foods to eat before bed
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1. Spicy foods
Step away from the hot sauce — overdoing it with spicy foods before bed might result in a restless night. Spicy foods may cause heartburn and indigestion, and this discomfort could spell trouble for a good night’s sleep. Heartburn can also become worse when lying down — if stomach acid makes its way up the esophagus.3
Try this: A mild, savory meal might be a better choice before bed. But if you’re prone to experiencing heartburn, save the spice for earlier in the day so you have plenty of time to comfortably digest. Or, try sleeping on your left side, which may help soothe the burn — research indicates that sleeping on your right side may make heartburn symptoms worse.4
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A nightcap might sound like a good idea before bed, but it might not be the best choice for a restful night (or weight loss). While alcohol might help you to fall asleep initially, it doesn’t help to sustain deep, restful sleep. A recent study found that drinking alcohol as little as four hours before going to bed can significantly disrupt sleep continuity.5
Try this: Shelve the booze and brew yourself a cup of soothing chamomile tea instead. Chamomile is a natural sleep aid and its calming effects may come from a flavonoid called apigenen, a plant compound, binding to specific receptors in the brain.6
Photo by David Mao on Unsplash
If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to skip a late-night cup of coffee. Experts at Healthline report the effects of caffeine peak within 30-60 minutes of consuming it, and you may start to feel jittery depending on how much you’ve sipped.7 Research suggests that your genes may play a role in your reaction to caffeine, and that people can fall into one of three categories of caffeine sensitivity: high, regular or low.8 Those who are more easily affected by caffeine may experience sleep problems — so you may benefit from monitoring your consumption of caffeine, particularly in the afternoon and evening. If you do need your morning cup o’ joe, that’s OK! Research suggests coffee may be good for your health. But for a better night’s sleep, try to avoid drinking several cups of coffee at least six hours before bedtime.9
Try this: Reach for a caffeine-free herbal tea or a glass of sparkling water, rather than coffee. Both black and green teas contain caffeine, so keep an eye on the nutrition label’s caffeine content to avoid staying up all night.
Photo by Caleb Oquendo on Unsplash
4. Fatty, sugary foods
High-fat, sugar-filled meals and snacks are unhealthy foods to avoid before bed. A recent study found that low-fiber diets that emphasized saturated fat and sugar were associated with more disrupted, less restful sleep.10 In the study, participants fell asleep faster after eating nutritionist-provided meals that were higher in protein and lower in saturated fat, compared to when they chose their own food and drinks. Skip sugary, greasy fast food at mealtimes and aim for a balanced diet with a healthy mix of fiber-rich vegetables and fruit, lean protein and healthy fats.
With Jenny Craig, you’ll enjoy a delicious, balanced menu that’s complete with entrees, snacks, shakes, and even dessert. And the good news is, you won’t have to avoid any of these before bed! Get started now — book your free appointment with a weight loss coach today.
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. They employ an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoy the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Reviewed By: Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.