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Top 5 Foods that Cause Sleeping Issues

Top 5 Foods that Cause Sleeping Issues

Getting a night of good sleep is crucial to being a happy and healthy individual. While most everyone knows this, few of us truly understand exactly how a lack of sleep effects us and the many things we do on a regular basis to cause sleeping issues.

There major benefits of good sleep most commonly including being more productive, better athletic performance, and a lower risk of some diseases and illnesses. The latter part of that is the major concern as chronically being sleep deprived, even mildly, can significantly affect our hormone levels including raising our cortisol, and lead to a host of issues including an autoimmune diesease.


Unfortunately, most people are not getting enough sleep for their needs and making things worse, the quality of sleep for many is less than ideal.

How much sleep should we be getting?

It is said that adults should be getting around 7-9 hours a night, but many people end up getting far less than that. We’re as guilty as anyone, but trust me, we work hard to prioritize sleep, especially quality sleep. This list of things we do to improve our sleep includes but is not limited to blue light glasses, F-lux on our computer, magnesium soaks, castor oil pads, and more.

Diagnosing a Sleeping Issue

There are a variety of potential reasons for sleeping problems and we will not be able to cover all of them in this post. For example, not having the right mattresses for stomach sleepers can keep you up and hold you back from a great night of sleep.

Other things include:

  • Too hot or cold (ideal sleeping temperature is actually 65 degrees),
  • Too much light
  • Too loud of an environment simply (We use these two earplugs to help our sleep: Macks ear plugs and the XXX moldable silicone (Michaels favorite))

However, another thing that could be contributing to your sleeping problems is the food and drinks you are consuming. What we put in our bodies can play a large role. While some things are perfectly fine and could even be good for sleep, others are the complete opposite.

Your diet could be a contributing factor as to why you are struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep or simply cannot seem to feel well-rested. Sign up for our FREE Elimination Diet Video Series to systematically identify foods that could be effecting your overall health. For the immediate purpose of helping you sleep, this article is going to go over five foods and/or ingredients that you should look to avoid if you want to ensure you sleep your best.



There is no doubt that the world loves coffee and caffeine. Many rely on it for the pick-me-up, to keep them warm or simply because they love the taste. Millions consume multiple cups every day, and it is an important part of their daily routine. Unfortunately, the sleeping difficulties that caffeine can cause are well-known.

While most of us know to avoid drinking coffee late in the day, caffeine appears in a variety of other products, too. It can be found in teas, sodas, chocolate, and even some types of medication. You could be consuming caffeine daily before bed, and not even know unless you have done your research. 

For example, while Excedrin is a popular medicine to reach for when you have a headache, it actually contains caffeine. Other medicine can also include caffeine such as many weight loss pills, diuretics, and cold medicine.

Always check out the ingredients list of anything you consume before bed to check for caffeine. While everyone handles it differently, many people still struggle to fall asleep 10-12 hours after the consumption of caffeine.

The reason caffeine is terrible for our sleep is that it is a stimulant that can provide people with jolts of energy. As you could imagine, this is the opposite of what people want before bed. Caffeine can also interrupt the natural sleep/wake cycle of the body, and blocks certain chemical receptors in the brain that promote sleep. It keeps you alert, focused and productive, which are all great for during the day, but not as you are trying to sleep.

Also, caffeine generally lasts a while in the body, making it even tougher on your sleep if you’re not careful. In most cases, avoiding caffeine anytime after mid-afternoon is generally the right call, unless you know your body can handle it later. 

Spicy Foods

Few things are as tasty or satisfying as a nice spicy plate of food. However, this should generally be avoided in the evening and right before bed. The main reason for this is because spicy foods are very likely to give you heartburn. 

The pain and discomfort for heartburn make it difficult to sleep comfortably and could lead you to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night. When you lay down, the heartburn and acid reflux can often get worse than if you were simply sitting or standing, as well.

Another reason spicy foods should be avoided is that some can actually increase your core body temperature. Many people struggle sleeping when they are too warm, so you can see how this could end up being a problem. Also, it takes more energy from the body to digest the spices, which can further inhibit your ability to have a good sleep.

There is also the old belief that spicy foods can cause weird and bizarre dreams, but this has never been explored that deeply to know if it is actually true or not.

In a similar vein, overly acidic foods can also cause heartburn and should generally be consumed earlier in the day, as opposed to right before bed. So those oranges or grapefruit you’ve been having before bed might not always be the best choice going forward.

Fatty Foods

Who doesn’t love a good burger and fries or a big plate of nachos? While these types of food might taste great, they have a tendency to hurt our ability to sleep well. It doesn’t matter specifically when you eat these fatty foods, but if your diet consists of too many, you may find it hard to get a quality night of sleep. This goes for whether you eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

This can often simply be because these types of foods can be very filling, and the associated stomach discomfort can be challenging to sleep through. Bloating and indigestion are other problems that may arise and stand in the way of good sleep.

Foods that are high in fat may also make people less sensitive to chemicals in the brain that helps to regulate their sleep. This can make it tough for your body to know when it is time to sleep or wake. Also, having a diet high in saturated fat, you often spend less of your time in deep sleep, which can leave you tired and lethargic during the day.

In addition to hurting your sleep, eating too many fatty foods can also be very unhealthy for your body, so keep everything in moderation. The odd treat here and there is fine, but if it becomes a daily occurrence to eat a ton of fatty foods, it could be a problem.

Protein-Rich Foods

Protein is generally a good thing to get from your food. It not only provides us with energy but helps to rebuild things like our muscles and bones. However, if you are eating right before bed, you generally want to avoid things that are loaded up with a ton of protein.

The reasoning behind this is that they can often take much longer for your body to break down. Also, as your digestion slows by about half when you sleep, it can be difficult for your body to digest a protein-heavy meal right before bed.

Another reason to avoid a high-protein snack before bed is that experts believe these meals don’t contribute as much tryptophan as it does many other amino acids. This is the amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is vital for helping us to calm down.

If you don’t get enough of this tryptophan, it may actually reduce the serotonin you get, which can lead you to not feel as tired or as calm as you should right before bed. Similar to the fatty food example, protein-rich foods are also very heavy, and trying to fall asleep with a very full stomach can be uncomfortable to deal with. 


Few foods are as universally beloved as cheese. People all over the world eat it in a variety of dishes, and it comes in many different types. But as you can assume by its inclusion on this list, cheese isn’t the best food to eat before bed.

This is because many kinds of cheese (especially those that are strong or aged) contain an amino acid called tyramine. This increases the amount of norephedrine that our body produces, which is often known as the fight or flight hormone.

It often sends our alertness levels skyrocketing, which can make trying to fall asleep next to impossible. If you do manage to get to sleep, staying asleep can be incredibly tough. 

While some cheeses may be okay for some, if you have even a little intolerance to dairy, it is a good idea to avoid all cheeses, especially before bed. They can cause bloating, gas, inflammation, and general discomfort.

In conclusion, all of these foods have the potential to cause issues when it comes to getting enough sleep. Not only that, but they can also hurt the quality of your sleep. If you want to sleep well, it is best to avoid these for at least the last few hours before you go to bed.

A light, healthy anti-inflammatory (add link to our site) snack such as ***** is often the best choice before bed if you feel you need or want to eat something. Something easy to digest and foods that release serotonin or contain melatonin is generally a good idea, too.

About The Author

Kylene Bogden

Kylene Bogden is one of the most well respected Functional Sports Dietitians in the United States. As a high school and collegiate sprinter, she experienced recurrent injury and fatigue. After years of constant struggle, she eventually learned that an abundance of processed foods and poor fueling strategies were the root of her performance issues. Kylene's personal journey as an athlete fueled her passion for finding a more progressive approach to sports nutrition. Since then, she has helped thousands of individuals dramatically improve overall health and athletic performance by taking a whole food approach. To learn more about Kylene's story and how a functional nutrition approach can help you to achieve your goals, simply click on the contact us link in the upper right-hand corner today!

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