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Popular Foods That Are Ruining Your Sleep, Says Science

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, limiting your intake of these popular foods could help.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

We've all been there: you feel exhausted, but you just can't fall asleep. Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours, and before you know it, you wake up bleary-eyed, feeling terrible, and not at all ready to face the day. When it comes to how well you sleep, it's not just the amount of activity you get on a particular day or how badly you want to rest that makes a difference—many of the foods you're eating on a regular basis could be seriously impairing your sleep too.

If you want to get better rest starting tonight, read on to discover which popular foods could be ruining your sleep. And for some foods worth adding to your regular routine, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.


Refined carbohydrates

slices white bread on plate

It's not just your waistline that may suffer the effects of eating highly processed carbohydrates on a regular basis—your sleep may suffer, too. A 2020 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, among a group of 77,860 postmenopausal women studied as part of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Survey, those with higher intakes of high-glycemic-index foods, including added sugars and refined grains, had higher rates of insomnia than those who consumed fewer of these foods.

For some better-for-you carbs to add to your plate, check out the 24 Best Healthy Carbs To Eat For Weight Loss.


Spicy food

hot sauce

If you want to enjoy a restful night's sleep, you may want to avoid dousing your dinner in spicy condiments. A study published in the International Journal of Psychopathology found that, among a group of six otherwise healthy male study subjects, consuming Tabasco sauce and mustard at dinner increased the amount of time it took them to fall asleep, and reduced their amounts of both stage two and deep sleep.

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Fried food

french fries

You likely know that fried foods aren't doing any favors for your health, and research suggests they may be causing serious trouble for your sleep, too. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which followed 26 adults between 30 and 45 years of age who typically slept between 7 and 9 hours per night, found that high saturated fat intake was associated with lighter sleep, increased waking during the night, and less restful sleep as a whole.

For more incentive to ditch those fried foods for good, check out these Dangerous Side Effects of Eating Fried Foods, According to Science.



dark chocolate

Those chocolate-based desserts may be having a more detrimental effect on your sleep than you think. While chocolate typically contains less caffeine than you'd get in your average cup of coffee, it's still a significant enough amount to have a sleep-disrupting effect on certain individuals. For instance, a Scharffen Berger 82% Extra Dark Chocolate Bar contains 84 milligrams of caffeine in a full bar, while an 8-oz. cup of brewed coffee has approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine—not a sizable difference.

Unfortunately, that may spell trouble when it comes to your sleep. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that a 400-milligram dose of caffeine taken 0, 3, or even 6 hours prior to bedtime significantly disturbed study participants' sleep.



man pouring a glass of wine

You may want to think twice before ending your day with a nightcap. While alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it can actually significantly impair your ability to sleep well. A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology found that, among a group of 20 healthy adult study subjects between 21 and 45 years of age, those who consumed alcohol reduced the amount of REM sleep had by both normal sleepers and those with insomnia.

For more insight into how your health may change when you stop drinking, check out these Surprising Side Effects of Not Drinking Alcohol, Say Experts.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah
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