Bad Night’s Sleep? Your Dinner May be to Blame

So I thought I was doing all the right things. I eat an early dinner, at least 3 hours before my bedtime. I don’t have coffee or other caffeinated drinks after lunchtime, and I do my best to avoid blue light an hour before I plan to fall asleep. But I was surprised to discover that there are certain foods that may be disrupting my good night’s rest. If you struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep, one of these could be the culprit. 

Red meat

High protein foods, and particularly red meat, take a long time for your body to digest. You may have a hard time winding down if your system is still working away. Give yourself at least 3 hours after dinner to process. As an alternative, white meat chicken, flaky fish, tofu and eggs are easier to digest.

High fiber foods

Foods high in fiber may be great for your overall health, but also can take your body longer to digest. Plan ahead and give yourself a few hours before hitting the hay if whole grains, legumes, nuts or high fiber fruits and vegetables are on the menu.

Fatty foods

Deep fried anything can wreak havoc on a good night’s sleep. There’s more than one good reason to forgo that cheeseburger and fries. Rich, fatty foods are hard to digest.

Foods high in tyramine

A beautiful charcuterie platter overflowing with prosciutto, salami, gorgonzola and parmigiano is hard to resist, but these foods contain something called tyramine, which causes the brain to release norepinephrine, a stimulant that could keep you from a peaceful night’s sleep. For those with high blood pressure, foods high in tyramine could cause a spike, which is not only dangerous, but could lead to a disruptive night. Besides the aged cheeses and meats, avoid other tyramine-containing foods such as tomatoes, eggplant, soy sauce, fish sauce, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, and citrus.

Acidic foods

If you have a history of acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion, you should definitely avoid highly acidic foods at night. Tomato sauce, fruit juices, citrus and vinaigrettes can all make it worse.

Spicy foods

Hot sauce and spicy chilis have a similar effect as acidic foods on your body, causing acid reflux and heartburn. This can be painful and awaken you in the middle of the night – something to consider if the plan is spicy noodles from your favorite Thai place after work. 


We all know this – coffee and caffeinated tea can increase our alertness and provide a desired boost of energy. Best left to mornings, caffeine is not a great formula for relaxation and sleep. In the afternoon and evening stay away from sugary sodas and energy drinks, as well, and opt for an herbal tea instead.


Sad but true, chocolate contains caffeine. Avoid eating chocolate later in the day if you are prone sleep disruptions from caffeine.


Studies have shown that winding down with a nightcap may likely wind you up in the middle of the night. Avoid alcohol if you value your zzzzs, as it interferes with REM sleep. 

Sugar bombs

Sugary foods cause blood sugar levels to spike, and then crash, leading to restlessness. Avoid sugary desserts if you’re counting on a good night’s sleep.

Zest Kitchen + Home does not provide medical advice. Any content found on this website or in any linked material is intended for general information and entertainment, and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We make no warranties, nor express or implied representations whatsoever regarding the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or usefulness of any information contained or referenced on this website. Always seek the advice of your physician, nurse, or other qualified health care provider to determine whether making a lifestyle change or decision based on the content of this website is appropriate for you.

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