The #1 Food to Give Up For Better Sleep, Says Dietitian
Looking to sleep better? Heed this advice.
"If you want to sleep better, the number one food you should give up (or at least cut back on) is candy," says Kim Yawitz, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in St. Louis, Missouri.
As Yawitz explains—and you likely know—candy is very high in sugar, and offers basically no redeeming nutritional value. "Gummy bears, for example, have 21 grams of sugar per serving, with only three grams of protein, zero grams of fat, and no vitamins or other beneficial nutrients to speak of," says Yawitz. "And eating too much candy could create short- and long-term sleep issues."
Research shows the link between eating candy and sleep issues
Candy doesn't just disturb sleep because it can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar that can leave you hungry and cause restless sleep. "In the short term, snacking on candy or other sugary foods at night can also lead to hormone changes—like increased insulin, cortisol, and adrenaline—that leave you restless, anxious, and hungry," says Yawitz.
Yawitz also highlights that there's also some evidence that eating lots of candy, in general, could impact sleep quantity and quality.
"In one large study, the odds of sleeping fewer than six hours per night were 32 percent higher in adolescents who ate candy and other sweets five times per week, and the odds of poor sleep quality were 30 percent higher among frequent sweets eaters," she says. "Another large study that included adults had similar findings — specifically, that women who ate more sweets (including candy) were more likely to report sleep troubles." Yeah, no thanks. We'll take our beauty sleep.
Candy isn't the only food that can disrupt sleep
Beyond candy, cutting out fried foods could also help you sleep better, says Yawitz, as studies have linked high-fat diets with an increased risk of sleep disorders.
"Limiting acidic foods, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages could help you sleep better if you're among the 20 percent of American adults with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)," she adds.
Read More: The #1 Best Thing to Eat for Better Sleep, Says a Dietitian
And don't forget to ditch these drinks for better sleep
On the drinks front, Yawitz also recommends avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. "Caffeine has been shown to decrease sleep time and quality, so avoiding caffeinated beverages and foods like dark chocolate in the afternoon and evening could promote better sleep," she says.
And, it's a common misconception that a nightcap will help you sleep, says Yawitz. "Just one or two drinks could decrease sleep quality by 24 percent, according to one study." Worth noting: For low ABV or alcohol-free beer, wine, or spirits, scan the label and be wary of sugar content in these drinks, which may also disrupt sleep.
Read More: Secret Tricks for Getting Better Sleep After 60, Says Science
A lot of this comes down to the individual, stresses Yawitz. "For example, lots of studies suggest that caffeine is bad for sleep, yet I could drink coffee at 9 p.m. and still sleep through a tornado," she says. "One great way to know if a specific food impacts your sleep is to keep a food and symptom journal. Tracking your sleep alongside your foods can help you identify any foods or diet patterns that keep you up at night."