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Foods That Can Affect Your Sleep

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on January 16, 2019 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Sleep Support

Sleep should be a cornerstone of personal care. Not only can it give you more energy while boosting your mood, it can also decrease your chances of developing long-term heart issues and improve your mental health. The average adult needs close to eight hours of sleep every night—a recommendation that varies based on individual needs, age and lifestyle. With full schedules and busy households, however, many people struggle to get a healthy amount of rest.

If you find yourself tossing and turning when it’s time to get some shut-eye, you may want to start figuring out what’s going wrong with your sleep. While many things, like stress levels and frequency of exercise, can affect your sleep quality, your diet also plays a major role. Food choices can make or break your night depending on the way they’re prepared and the ingredients they contain. To help out, we’ve compiled a list of foods that can affect your sleep, showing which ones to stay away from and which to enjoy.

French fries

Fried foods contain quite a bit of grease and fat that can sit heavily in your stomach while you try to get to sleep. This can not only trigger heartburn but also nausea as your body works to digest such a fatty meal. If you still want to enjoy the occasional fried or greasy snack, including cheeseburgers and potato chips, try to do so about five hours or more before crawling into bed.

  • Alternative: Baked sweet potato fries. Instead, swap greasy fries with baked sweet potato fries for a tasty, but healthier, alternative. The complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes will help keep you full and prevent late-night hunger pains while the nutrients inside the vegetable inspire your body to get sleepy. Sweet potatoes contain muscle-relaxing potassium that should trigger your brain to release sleep hormones. Plus, baking the fries avoids most of the grease in french fries but still provides a satisfying crunch and taste.


While alcohol may help you fall asleep quickly, it can actually inhibit restorative sleep. Wine and other spirits may have a surprising impact on your REM sleep, causing you to wake up often and remain in light, shallow sleep. It can also cause nightmares and frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. To protect your sleep, it’s best to avoid wine or other alcoholic drinks at least four hours before bed.

  • Alternative: Herbal tea. Herbal teas, like chamomile or peppermint, don’t contain caffeine and can help you relax into sleep. Chamomile has been shown to improve sleep quality for insomniacs and others experiencing sleep issues, while peppermint tea helps soothe the body while also fighting nausea or other common sleep-disruptors.

Hot Wings

Spicy foods, like wings or buffalo chicken, can have serious impacts on your sleep. The capsaicin that makes most hot sauces spicy is exceptionally acidic and can trigger heartburn. It can also raise your internal body temperature, potentially causing night sweats and keeping you up late into the night.

  • Alternative: Fresh garlic. While not necessarily hot, fresh garlic can pack a punch of flavor and mild spice, while also promoting a healthy body and sleep cycle. Consider adding freshly pressed or chopped garlic to healthy meals such as pasta, mashed potatoes or fatty fish for an added boost of sleepiness.

Check out this infographic for even more foods that can affect your sleep. Be sure to stay mindful of what you put in your body to maintain a consistent sleep routine, and therefore, a healthy mind and body.

Infographic on Sleep and Diet

If, even after updating your diet, you still have trouble sleeping through the night, there are some other changes that you can make to help you drift off more consistently.

  • More comfortable bedding can prevent uncomfortable shifting all night long and help make sure you wake up feeling refreshed. A foam mattress and pillows that are resistant to clumping adapt better to your natural sleeping style than older, more traditional bedroom essentials and should reduce soreness in the morning.
  • Sticking to a bedtime schedule can also have a huge impact on your ability to fall asleep on time every night. Be sure to hold yourself accountable and continuously get into bed at the same time every night. This should help your body and natural circadian rhythms recognize a pattern and allow you to fall asleep more easily.
  • Stress relief is an essential aspect of falling asleep efficiently because it can clear racing thoughts that might prevent your brain from fully shutting down. Be sure to try out some bedtime yoga or an herbal remedy to calm down and lower your heart rate before bed.

By implementing a few of these lifestyle and dietary changes, you should be able to enjoy a full night’s rest every single night.

Read also: Understanding Insomnia

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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