If you find it hard to fall or stay asleep at night, your diet might be to blame. Here’s a list of eight possible food culprits that could be ruining your sleep.

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It’s not just coffee that will keep you awake, as caffeine is present in other beverages too – soft drinks are laced with caffeine, as are energy drinks and, of course, tea contains caffeine too. It’s also present in certain medications, so make sure you read your labels before ingesting anything. Because it’s a stimulant, caffeine in anything you consume is going to keep you awake. As a general rule, don’t take anything with caffeine after 4pm.

It might be good for your health but try not to eat it too soon before bedtime. Chocolate has some caffeine in it – the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content – but dark chocolate also contains theobromine, which increases your heart rate and gives you sleepless nights. Dark cocoa also increases serotonin and endorphin levels, which increase concentration levels and make you more alert – something you certainly don’t want to feel when you’re trying to get to sleep. So stop snacking on chocolate in front of the TV at night; instead, have some walnuts and almonds, which contain melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep better.

Whether they’re cured or smoked, such meats are high in tyrosine, an amino acid that improves alertness and keeps you awake. Also, because such meats tend to be fatty, they could also lead to heartburn, which will definitely not give you a good night’s sleep. Eat them only at lunchtime if you’re a big fan.

Snacking on junk food when you’re not far from bedtime isn’t going to help you sleep (or lose weight either, of course). Fried, fatty foods such as french fries will send your digestive system out of whack and will therefore make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Think twice next time you pick up that late-night fast food snack on your way home after a night out.

Raw veggies such as celery and carrots are ideal snacks because they make fill you up quickly but they also take a long time to digest (thank you, fibre!). Therefore, your digestive system will be working very hard for a long time after eating them and you’ll be feeling it too, as the food moves through your body, which leads to disruptive – or even no – sleep.

Don’t drink too much fluids in the hours leading up to bedtime – or at least 90 minutes before. Not only will drinking too much water make you feel too full to fall asleep – thus making you waste time tossing and turning in bed – it will also disrupt your sleep by forcing you to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Good luck getting back to sleep after that, especially if it’s 5am and you know you’ll have to get up and go to work soon. 

It’s only aged cheeses that you need to worry about here; aged and fermented foods contain an amino acid called tyramine, which stimulates your brain, so it will be wide awake even if your body is exhausted. You’ll be alright with fresh cheeses such as mozzarella but stay away from varieties like blue cheese if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Do note that another food that is rich in tyramine is tomato.

A glass of wine might help you get to sleep but you won’t be getting the optimum quality sleep that your body needs. Anything more than that and you can kiss goodbye to a proper night’s sleep. Drinking alcohol before bed reduces your duration of REM sleep, which is the deep sleep you need, and that’s the reason why you wake up feeling so tired. Don’t forget that alcohol also dehydrates you so there’s a high chance you’l be waking up a few hours later, reaching for some water. Try to stop drinking at least a couple of hours before bedtime.

Want more tips on how to have a better night’s sleep? Read our stories 10 simple ways to improve your sleep; 4 Tips that’ll help you sleep better at night and The surprising reason why you’re having insomnia

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