7 foods that hamper sleep

Published: January 30, 2016

From ridiculously early risers to recurrent night owls, we all can agree that when we finally lay our heads on the takya, we’d like to actually go to sleep, thank you. Nothing is more bothersome than insomnia, and the evidence is piling up that sleep is essential for mental and physical health. As compiled from eatthis.com, Men’s Health and ABC, quit tossing and turning by avoiding these worst foods for sleep.


We know you love it with your samosas and shaami kebabs, but don’t squeeze another blob onto your plate. “Ketchup is extremely acidic, thanks to the tomatoes it’s made with,” shares Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. “In addition to the acid that is naturally there, ketchup is usually preserved with other chemicals that make them even more acidic and may lead to heartburn.” Watch out for tomato sauces, too when you dine out. “Pasta and marinara sauces can contribute to indigestion and heartburn,” she says, adding, “This is especially important if you’re prone to indigestion. When you lie down to go to bed, digestion slows and the horizontal position can make heartburn and indigestion even worse.” Don’t give it up altogether but reduce your serving size and avoid post evening.

Cheeseburger and fries

Okay, drive-throughs are tempting but if you want to snooze, you got to lose the junk food habit.  The stratospheric fat content of these particular fast foods is guaranteed to be a sleep killer. Fat stimulates the production of acid in the stomach, which can spill up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Fatty foods can also loosen the lower esophageal sphincter, the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, making it even easier for acid to get in all the wrong places. In fact, there’s almost nothing to recommend this kind of high-fat, salt-laden indulgence if you want to preserve your health, including the quality of your sleep. Sorry to disappoint , but a word of caution from Hayim — “Before bed, avoid foods coated in oil or that give a big ‘crunch’ when you eat it.” Yes, she meant fries and chilli chips!

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Raw onions

Thinking of devouring tikkas tonight with a cluster of kachi pyaaz and imli chutney on the side? You might want to reconsider. Unfortunately, fowl breath isn’t the only reason to give up this delish salad staple right before bedtime. “Onions can cause gas that affects the pressure in your stomach,” says Hayim. “As a result, the sphincter is forced to open, which allows your meal and acidity to enter back into your esophagus.” Extensive research has found that raw onions can cause potent and long-lasting feelings of reflux, especially in people who are prone to heartburn or that “heavy” feeling after a calorie-laiden meal. Now that’s something to toss and turn over.

OD-ing on protein

Have you ever noticed how it’s hard to get decent shut-eye after you’ve downed a steak or chargha at that family dinner? A little lesson in logic: “You may think a high-protein or high-fat dinner will keep you full all night, preventing you from waking. But research shows that eating a high-protein meal before bed can lead to sleep disturbances,” advises Erin Palinski-Wade, nutritionist and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. And, like many other foods on this list, you may wind up with indigestion or acid reflux since you’ll be lying down with a full stomach.


We agree — weekends and late night pizza home delivery go hand-in-hand. In fact, pizzas are so convenient; we love them at any time of the day. Now, the letdown — whether it’s a quick fix for working late or your go-to binge food, a slice of pizza won’t let you sleep tight. “The specific combination of fat in the cheese and the acid in the tomato sauce can have a negative impact on your sleep quality,” explains Palinski-Wade. “High-acid foods can trigger acid reflux, especially when eaten close to bedtime. Even if you don’t feel ‘heartburn,’ this reflux can cause you to awaken partially from sleep and leave you tired the next day.”

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Are you a water fanatic or the type to always have a tall glass of paani on your bedside table? You just might want to rethink that. “Yes, you should drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated. In fact, even slight dehydration can significantly drain your energy levels,” shares Palinski-Wade. “But if you drink too much of it right before bed, you may find yourself awakening multiple times to urinate, plus it gives you an instant energy right after you’re done guzzling. Don’t you dare reduce your water intake but instead, start to taper off your fluid intake about three hours before bedtime.

Spicy meals

Okay, that burst our bubble too. An Australian study found that men who consumed masala-heavy meals for dinner (think spicy nihari) had more trouble falling asleep and experienced less deep sleep than men who ate blander suppers. Spices can also cause heartburn. “I love recommending hot peppers as an easy way to boost metabolism but consuming them late in the evening can trigger heartburn in sensitive individuals,” confirms Palinski-Wade. “Also, the thermogenic properties of these Pakistani kitchen staples can increase the body’s core temperature.” Since your core temperature naturally decreases as you get ready to sleep, raising it can cause you to feel more awake and struggle with staying asleep. So keep the hot and spicy options for your healthy breakfast ideas.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2016.

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