5 Foods That Keep You Up At Night


Everyone has a difficult time falling asleep sometimes; it’s called insomnia. The Mayo Clinic defines insomnia as a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall or stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early. Anxiety, sickness, or uncomfortable temperatures can often cause temporary insomnia. However, the type of food you eat can affect sleep, too.


Here are the top 5 foods that can keep you up all night:


  1. Chocolate. Just like a good cup of Joe, chocolate can sabotage your sleep if eaten too close to bedtime because it contains caffeine. It’s best to stop consuming chocolate and caffeinated drinks by early afternoon to allow your body to clear out the caffeine.


  1. Aged cheese and smoked meats. Although incredibly yummy, these foods are high in an amino acid called tyramine, which can stimulate the brain to produce norepinephrine. This in turn increases alertness by increasing your heart rate, releasing glucose (sugar) into your blood stream, and it increases blood flow into your muscles. This is similar to the fight-or-flight syndrome, and it can keep you up at night.


  1. Spicy Foods. Foods that are spicy can cause heartburn, a digestive disturbance that often interferes with sleep. However, it isn’t necessary to experience heartburn for sleeplessness; simply having your digestive system working overtime on heavy foods or spicy foods right before bedtime can disturb your sleep.


  1. Sugary foods. Simple carbohydrates such as sweets and white processed bread cause your blood sugar to rise sharply and then drop suddenly, causing low blood sugar for many people. This causes your adrenal glands to produce cortisol giving you that same stress response as norepinephrine mentioned above. It’s best to avoid simple sugars before bedtime, especially if you have diabetes, or are prone to low blood sugar. If you simply can’t do without that sweet snack, choose foods high in fiber and protein to pair with it to keep your blood sugar steady through the night.


  1. Foods available at happy hour. Well, not just the food, it’s the happy hour drinks, too. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep, it interferes with the deep stages of sleep and can also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, leaving you groggy the next morning. Combine late night drinking with greasy bar food that can affect your sleep, and it’s almost a guaranteed recipe for insomnia.


Although occasional sleeplessness happens to most people, if you find yourself unable to sleep often, that can be a serious medical problem as it can cause weight gain and increase your risk for high blood pressure and heart attacks. So if changing your eating habits to avoid foods that keep you up all night doesn’t fix the problem, you should talk with your physician to see if your symptoms might be caused by something more serious such as sleep apnea.

Jennifer M. Wood, MS, RD

Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN is registered dietitian nutritionist and successful food and nutrition consultant in Southeastern Minnesota. As the founder of a nation-wide gourmet food company, Wood wrote Jenny’s Country Kitchen…recipes for making homemade a little easier! (2003), which is a timeless collection of make-ahead, freeze-ahead and pantry-stocking recipes and time saving tips to help busy families put nutritious food on table. Wood graduated with a pre-med bachelors degree in nutritional science in 2001, completed her dietetic internship in 2007 and went on to complete a master’s degree in food and nutrition in 2011.

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