5 Healthy Foods You Didn't Know Are Wrecking Your Sleep

Updated 01/28/18
Foods to avoid before bed: woman looking at a plate of food
Wildfox

We all know the tale that cheese gives you nightmares and can disrupt your sleep, but turns out it shouldn't be shouldering the blame for our sleepless nights. One study found that our favourite bit of cheddar probably doesn't cause nightmares like we thought. In fact, it turns out there are actually some healthy foods we should avoid eating before hitting the hay.

We spoke to The Sleep Geek, aka James Wilson, who gave us some sage advice about diet and sleep. For Wilson's clients, he always looks at food and exercise too. It's not just about sleep—he looks at the full "health triangle." "You can't get your sleep right if your diet’s not right," says Wilson. "Just as exercising too close to bedtime can be a problem and keep you awake, you've got to consider your sleep type (are you a lark or an owl?) and consider the timing of your evening meal."

Wilson says that if you go to bed at 10 p.m., then you should be eating a good couple of hours before and also make sure that you don't eat anything too heavy—even if it is healthy. With this in mind, we've also looked at research on the kind of foods that could be keeping you awake to help you get a better night's sleep. Sure, they're healthy, but you probably want to save these foods for your lunchbox.

Keep scrolling for the five healthy foods you didn't know were keeping you awake.

Watermelon

Watermelons are great for helping you to cool off in the summer, but consuming the fruit just before bed means you might not be sleeping so well. Thanks to the high quantity of fructose in the fruit (around 18 grams per serving), this can cause an upset stomach if eaten too close to going to bed, particularly for those who suffer from IBS or who have fructose malabsorption, which can cause your stomach to become bloated.

According to Susan Kleiner, PhD, author of Power Eating"High intakes of fructose can lead to gastric distress with bloating, gas, pain and diarrhea. Fructose diffuses slowly across the intestinal membrane, so if too much is consumed at once, some of it remains in the gut, and bacteria begin to digest it." Want to hit your five-a-day? Try a small bowl of raspberries, which only have around 3 grams of fructose.

Kombucha

Heralded as the new kale, kombucha tea started getting steadily more popular around 2015. Google Trends shows that there was a spike in searches for the stuff around the middle of that year, and it's only continued to increase in popularity into 2016 and 2017. So what's the big deal about the tea, and why should we not be drinking it before bed? Despite many saying that it is a cure-all and can help numerous problems from joint pain to liver problems, thanks to the good bacteria it contains, it can cause an upset stomach if you're not used to drinking it, which is no good when you want to get a decent night's sleep.

Celery

Sure, celery contains a load of different antioxidants and minerals, and by no means are we saying don't eat the stuff, but before bed? You might want to skip that snack. The vegetable is a natural diuretic, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. This means you'll probably end up going to the loo more frequently in the night, so you won't get an uninterrupted night's sleep.

Citrus Fruits

We hate to break it to you, but that orange you thought was a healthy alternative to dessert is probably not going to help you sleep. If you tend to suffer with acid reflux, then make sure you avoid citrus fruit before bed. The National Sleep Foundation advises that you avoid these kinds of foods and keep a food diary, so you know what foods are causing any kind of acid reflux.

If you do find your acid reflux flares up at night, lie down on your left side not your right. According to Everyday Health, "[Sleeping on your right side] seems to prompt relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter—the tight ring of muscle connecting the stomach and esophagus that normally defends against reflux. [Instead] sleep on your left side. This is the position that has been found to best reduce acid reflux."

Broccoli

Whether you love or hate broccoli, there's no denying that this is a serious superfood. Not only is it packed full of vitamins A and C, calcium and iron, it's also a great source of fibre. But thanks to all that lovely fibre, we can become bloated because it takes your stomach longer to break down the vegetable. According to nutritionist and author Cynthia Sass, if you do want to eat broccoli at night, reduce your portion size and steam it. "Cooking any vegetable softens the fibre and shrinks the portion as some of the water cooks out," she says.

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Next up! Want to know how to tell if you're sleep deprived? There's a super-simple trick.

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