Do you enjoy late-night snacks or tend to eat dinner late? If you do, you're not alone - modern day life has many of rushing around all day and getting to dinner late - as well as craving that late-night comfort food for stress relief. However, according to Chinese Medicine, it's better to go to bed on an relaxed and empty stomach. This allows your organ systems to rest and focus on repair work through the night. In fact, if you have sleep problems and digestive problems already (gassiness, bloating, acid reflux), we suggest avoiding dinner after 6 or 7 pm, and having a lighter dinner. But if you going to eat late, then knowing the foods that can actually cause poor quality sleep can be helpful. Here are our top nine!
If you like your spicy food, you might want to think twice before indulging in a late-night chili con carne or vindaloo. While spicy dishes can be deliciously tempting, their high levels of capsaicin can cause indigestion, acid reflux, and other digestive problems that can keep you awake at night. In addition, spicy foods can irritate the stomach lining and cause heartburn. In Chinese Medicine terms, it is the heat of the food that can cause irritation, as well as rebelling upwards of Qi in the Stomach. So if you're looking for a good night's sleep, it's best to save the curry for an early dinner.
Caffeine can obviously interfere with your sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you're looking for a way to improve your sleep, you might want to skip the dark chocolate, and obviously any caffeinated beverages such as green or black tea, and coffee. What caffeine does is send adrenaline pumping through your system, making your body think it's time for flight or fight. That's the opposite of what you want to do at night. If you already have problems sleeping, such as restless sleeping, not enough restorative sleep, or having trouble falling asleep, we actually suggest no caffeine past 10 am in the morning. That is, if you really want to fix your sleep.
So, you're trying to lose weight AND you want to get a good night's sleep. Two very important goals that actually go hand-in-hand. But did you know that eating ice before bed can actually sabotage both of those efforts? It's true! Ice cream is high in sugar and can spike your insulin levels, making it difficult to fall asleep. Late night snacking on ice cream can also increase cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone that can make it difficult to fall asleep. And the cold also makes it so that your Spleen and Stomach Organ System have to work to generate more heat to digest the cold dairy - over time lending to organ Qi deficiency and dampness. So If you are trying to lose healthy weight as well, this is a no no. So next time you're nearing bedtime and getting that late night hankering for some ice cream, resist the temptation! Your body will thank you for it in the morning.
Note: If you struggle with having low blood glucose at night, it may be tempting to eat a high sugar snack. Nocturnal hypoglycemia can be a cause of insomnia, especially for those who eat too many refined carbs. In this case, a small bedtime snack that is low in fat, high in protein, and contains more complex carbohydrates can help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the night.
Ah, the staples of American diet. Pizza, burgers, and fries are definitely comfort foods for many. But did you know that they can hurt your sleep? That's because fatty foods take longer and are harder to digest, so you end up trying to put your brain to sleep while your digestive system is still churning away. The bloating that can come with high-fat foods doesn’t help, either. So say no to those pre-bedtime nachos - and, yes, let us add chips here for the high grease content. Fatty, greasy, oily foods all are harder for the Spleen and Stomach system to digest. In fact, if your organ systems are busy working at night and having a hard time, it can actually produce nightmares and disturbing dreams. So avoid these foods late at night - your digestive system and your brain - will thank you for it.
We all know that feeling. You've had a long day and you just want to relax with a glass of wine or a cocktail. And while alcohol may help you feel drowsy at first, it actually has the opposite effect once it starts to metabolize. Studies show that alcohol consumption before bedtime leads to increased wakefulness and less nighttime sleep. So if you're struggling with insomnia or other sleep disorders, alcohol is definitely not the answer. In fact, it may make things worse by causing snoring. So next time you're tempted to reach for a nightcap, think twice – it might just keep you up all night.
Dried fruit is a great source of fiber, and fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system. However, all that fiber can also lead to gas and bloating, which can be uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep. In addition, dried fruit has higher sugar levels than fresh fruit, which can lead to a sugar rush that can keep you up at night. If you're looking for a bedtime snack that won't disrupt your sleep, opt for a small serving of fresh fruit instead.
Water is essential for our bodies to function. It helps to regulate our temperature, carries nutrients to our cells, and flushes toxins from our system. Most health experts recommend drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day, but the amount we need can vary depending on our activity level, the climate we live in, and our overall health. While it's important to stay hydrated throughout the day, drinking too much water right before bed can actually lead to insomnia. When we sleep, our bodies naturally flush out toxins and excess water through urine. If you drink a lot of water before bed, you may find yourself waking up several times during the night to use the restroom. Instead of resting and repairing, your Kidney Organ system is busy working. This can cause Kidney deficiency over time, disrupt your sleep patterns and leave you feeling tired and groggy in the morning. To avoid this insomnia-inducing cycle, try to drink more water during the day and less in the evening. You'll still hit your hydration goals, and you'll be able to sleep through the night. If you are interested, you can read more about balanced hydration in our previous blog.
If you're one of those people who always orders the biggest steak on the menu, there's some bad news - that massive piece of meat is going to make it hard for you to fall asleep. That's because when you eat a heavy meal, your body has to work harder to digest all the food and lead to restless sleep. Furthermore, too much red meat all at once is very hard on your Liver, and can lead to excess protein build up in the Liver. In Chinese Medicine, the Liver is a primary organ system in charge of sleep. Any burden on the Liver can result in compromised sleep. So if you want to get a good, restorative night's sleep, it's best to stick with a smaller serving size and eat your steak earlier in the evening. That way, your body will have plenty of time to digest the food before you go to bed.
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a common food additive that is used to enhance flavor. MSG can be found in many processed foods, as well as in some restaurants that use it to flavor their dishes. While MSG is safe for most people, it can cause sleeplessness in some individuals. In Chinese Medicine, MSG is thought to cause strain on the Liver, resulting in Liver Blood deficiency. This deficiency is believed to be a main cause of sleep disorders. MSG can also lead to headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms in some people. If you are sensitive to MSG, it is best to avoid foods that contain it. You should also be aware that MSG can be found in some unlikely places, such as soy sauce and bouillon cubes. By being mindful of MSG's potential effects, you can help ensure a good night's sleep.
There can be many other foods that can cause poor quality sleep, but the basic lesson is this - if it is hard on your organ systems or difficult to digest, it is not a good idea to have it late at night. Even if you do not have sleep problems now, eating these types of foods late at night over the long term can also create future problems. So here is to be mindful of what you're eating, and SWEET DREAMS!