Eating & Drinking Before Bed—Do or Don’t?

Discover how your food and beverage choices may be affecting your sleep.They say, “You are what you eat.” Well, they should also say, “You sleep what you eat” because your quality of snooze-time may also be linked to what you put in your mouth. And often this happens without you even realizing it. Here, how your meals, snacks and drinks can affect your time in the sack.

Water. H20 is super healthy for you and getting enough is essential. In fact, if you’re tired during the day, check to see if you’re drinking enough water. “People get tired when they are dehydrated,” says Fitbit sleep advisor Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. So staying well hydrated can make you feel more awake and alert. That said, before bed isn’t the time to get the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses. “Excess water before bed can lead to midnight trips to the bathroom,” says Grandner.  

Wine or other alcoholic drinks. They may help you unwind after a long day and a red glass of vino may be good for your heart thanks to the antioxidants it contains. It may also help you fall asleep faster and some experts say it can even help you sleep more deeply initially. However, it can also suppress the REM stage, which is the deepest most restorative stage of sleep. “Alcohol may also contribute to an increase in vivid dreams or nightmares in this stage,” cautions Fitbit sleep advisor Allison T. Siebern, PhD, consulting assistant professor at Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center and director of the Sleep Health Integrative Program at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina.

Coffee drinks and flavored foods. A cup of java can give you a lift early in the day, but that lift can last until bedtime and disrupt the number of Z’s you catch. Although it affects everyone differently, caffeine can stay in your body for hours –sometimes six or more. “The half-life of caffeine is close to six hours,” explains Fitbit sleep advisor Michael T. Smith, PhD., director of the Center for Behavior and Health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “So if you have 200 mg of caffeine at 4 pm you will still have about 100 mg in your system at 10 PM.” Caffeine may also inhibit the release of a naturally occurring chemical that encourages sleep. And it’s not just drinks you need to pay attention to. Some coffee-flavored foods like coffee ice cream and yogurt can also contain enough caffeine to have an impact.

Tea may seem like a better choice than a latte, but some teas have just as much caffeine as coffee or close to the same amount. These are typically black teas like Earl Gray and  English breakfast and some green teas. Opt for herbal teas or decaf versions of black and green teas. You can also read the label on the box to see how much of this keep-you-up ingredient that a tea contains.

Sodas and energy drinks. Coffees and colas aren’t the only fizzy drinks to avoid before bed. Some energy drinks can contain sometimes twice or three times as much caffeine as a cup of coffee or soda. As a result, this can stay in your system for hours after you sip them. These drinks can also contain sugar which may rev you up as well. The bottom line? Opt for sugar-free, decaffeinated beverages in the hours before bed if you think your soda or energy drink habit is keeping you up.

Bedtime snacks. It’s okay if you have a little nibble before bed but a big, heavy meal can prevent you from sleeping well. One reason is your body is busy digesting it and another is that it can cause heartburn if you lie down too soon after eating. Try to enjoy dinner at least two hours before you hit the sack, says Grandner. And if you must eat closer to bedtime, opt for a small pre-bed snack like a few whole-grain crackers or a piece of fruit.

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