Foods that are unhelpful for a good night's sleep

Five foods to avoid before bedtime
Published May 4, 2021

A bad night’s rest can play havoc with your energy levels the following day, often leading to poor food choices and a marked decrease in activity as you struggle to make up for the disruption in your sleep. This article explores the myriad ways food can interact with proper sleep hygiene, and the types of food you should avoid to promote healthy sleeping habits.

Still feeling hungry before bedtime? Avoid the infamous sleep-disrupting foods listed below and reach for a snack that’s rich in magnesium, melatonin or tryptophan such as a banana, a handful of almonds, a small bowl of oatmeal or sliced turkey breast.

Foods with hidden caffeine

Coffee and tea are obvious culprits when it comes to consuming caffeine before bed, but there are plenty of hidden sources you might not be aware of. Chocolate in any form (with the exception of white chocolate), coffee-flavoured yogurt, non-cola carbonated beverages, energy bars, and even certain medications are known to contain varying amounts of caffeine. While some people might not suffer any repercussions in terms of sleep quality, folks who are caffeine-sensitive should read labels carefully.

Acidic foods

If you’ve ever woken up with a bad case of heartburn, you’ll know that acidic foods can make or break a night of uninterrupted sleep. Steer clear of the usual acid reflux-inducing suspects, such as citrus juice and white wine, also avoiding not-as-obvious acidic foods like onions, tomato sauce, carbonated beverages, and salsa.

Spicy foods

Hot sauce, salsa, and certain curry and stir fry sauces contain capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers responsible for the heat in your favourite spicy foods. Spicy mustard gets its heat from a compound called sinigrin, which, when crushed, releases an enzyme called myrosinase. When crushed mustard seeds are mixed with cold water (or another chilled liquid), a blistering hot mustard oil is activated. Both sources of heat cause a rise in body temperature, inhibiting the body’s natural thermoregulation process and leading to poor sleep quality. Some spicy foods, such as vinegar-based hot sauce and salsa, are also acidic and can trigger acid reflux.

Foods that cause gas

While high-fibre foods are a great choice during the day, they can potentially cause cramping and uncomfortable gas if consumed before bedtime. Avoid eating beans, legumes and members of the brassica family, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower, to help ensure a good night’s sleep. Foods that are preserved using nitrites (think cured meats and dried fruit) can also have a similar undesirable effect.


Although it’s tempting to enjoy a tipple before bedtime, the relaxing effect alcohol has on your body doesn’t last long. Alcohol disrupts sleep quality, meaning you may fall asleep easier, but you’ll spend less time in REM sleep. In addition to reducing the quality of your sleep, consuming alcohol before hitting the hay can exacerbate restless leg syndrome, cause headaches, and induce night sweats. The effects of drinking alcohol before bedtime can be somewhat offset by drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage, although this also disrupts sleep due to frequent trips to the bathroom.