Six foods to avoid before bedtime

Dark chocolate, curry, decaf coffee and more off the menu

girl eating biscuit in her bed

Worst Foods For Sleep

Do you have trouble sleeping? You might be surprised to hear about some of the food and drink that could be keeping you tossing and turning...

See also: How to combat insomnia as you get older

See also: Your feet could be the secret to a good night's sleep

1. Drop the dark chocolate
It's common knowledge that chocolate contains chemicals that cheer you up, and that dark chocolate in particular has some potent health benefits.

But did you know that it also contains caffeine – with a small bar of dark chocolate potentially being equivalent to a third of a cup of coffee? If you're particularly sensitive to caffeine, that could be enough to keep you counting sheep.

2. Cut the curry
You might want to reconsider that late-night curry if you have trouble sleeping, because spicy meals have been linked to a disturbed night in more than one way.

Firstly they can cause heartburn, indigestion or even hiccups – which will obviously make it harder to get to sleep. But eating a spicy meal close to bedtime has also been shown to raise the core body temperature, which in turn has been linked to poor-quality sleep.

3. Step away from the steak
Whether you're following a protein-rich diet, or you just like a big ol' steak for dinner – it might be best to avoid eating big portions of meat too close to bedtime.

This is because protein-rich, high-fat foods are harder to digest than most. A study has shown that fatty foods in particular can lead to disrupted sleep and daytime tiredness.

It is theorised that they affect a particular neurotransmitter in the brain, but the mechanism involved is not yet fully understood.

4. Ban the broccoli (and cauliflower)
Bet you didn't see this one coming. Although some roughage like broccoli and cauliflower actually contain tryptophan – a substance which helps the body regulate sleep by producing serotonin – there is a downside to them.

Veggies with high amounts of hard-to-digest fibre can make keep the body working away while you're trying to get to sleep.

There's also another well-known side-effect of brassicas (the family which also includes Brussels sprouts) to take into account, namely wind.

5. Don't have decaf
We all know having a cup of coffee before bed is not a good idea, but don't count on a cup of decaf being a safe option either.

The chemical process that sees caffeine removed from coffee beans actually leaves a little bit of the stimulant behind, with estimates ranging from 5%-20% of the amount found in a normal cup.

For those who are susceptible to caffeine – or those who like to drink a lot of decaf – that could certainly be enough to keep you tossing and turning.

6. Boycott the booze
Many of us find that a glass of red wine or a beer can help us to get off to sleep a little bit easier, but sleep is about quality as well as quantity – and alcohol has been firmly proven to negatively affect the standard of sleep.

It has been found to increase "slow wave" sleep in the first half of the night, but also to cause more sleep disruption in the later part of the night – leading to an worse night of sleep overall.

Alcohol is also a muscle relaxant and has been shown to increase snoring, which can also lead to poorer sleep – both you yourself and anyone sleeping nearby.

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