Can’t Sleep? Avoid These Foods

Cup of coffee

It’s coffee that will rob me of sleep. Even a cup at one in the afternoon can pack a wallop of caffeine. I learned my lesson the hard way.

I know I’m not the only one who has figured out that coffee can lead to a sleepless night. If you’ve been suffering from insomnia, maybe you should take a close look at what you eat before you go to bed.

Caffeine-laced coffee isn’t the only culprit. And by the way, decaf coffee usually contains just enough caffeine to keep some people awake, especially if they’re caffeine sensitive.

Woman in bathrobe eating chocolate

Let’s add a few more items to the caffeine list. Chocolate, for one. The darker the chocolate the more caffeine it contains. If you MUST have a nibble before you say goodnight, make it milk chocolate.

Glass of soda

Soda contains caffeine and also, the bubbles may be irritating and could lead to reflux once you’ve stretched out and rested your head against the pillow.

Hot Chili peppers

Spicy food can cause heartburn and also raise your core body temperature, which has been linked to a bad night’s sleep.

Cauliflower and broccoli

Eat a high fiber vegetable like broccoli and cauliflower too close to bedtime and you may toss and turn as your digestive system works overtime trying to digest the fiber.


Foods with a high water content — celery, cucumbers, watermelon, radishes — are natural diuretics, which means they make you pee, maybe all night long.

Man holding glass of whiskey

A night-cap may make you drowsy enough to get to sleep, but it’s apt to wake you up several times during the night. Alcohol also robs you of REM or rapid eye movement sleep, which we need for concentration, memory and motor skills.

Plate of fried chicken and french fries

Finally, a high fat meal may cause eight hours of indigestion and heartburn instead of eight hours of shuteye.

What if you’re really hungry?

What can you eat if you’re hungry before bedtime? Registered dietitian Kit Broihier has some recommendations: “A small bowl of lower-sugar cereal/oatmeal and low-fat milk is what I often suggest if someone really needs a bedtime snack,” says Kit. “This combo contains nutrients (unlike lots of other snack-type foods that folks might nosh on before bed) and isn’t difficult to digest (provided you’re not lactose intolerant).”

Cat sleeping

Some final words of sleep wisdom

In general, you should try not to eat too close to bedtime, says Kit. If you give your body a few hours to digest dinner, you’ll be more able to relax AND sleep come bedtime.

Do you have a bedtime snack ritual that helps you sleep all night long? Cup of warm milk maybe? Please share your secret.

Nighty night and sweet dreams!


Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.