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Having trouble sleeping? It could be for this surprising reason, experts say

When creating an ideal sleeping environment, you might think of lighting, temperature and sound — but what about food?

What you eat during the day can have a surprising impact on how well you sleep at night, according to experts.

Food choice is an essential consideration for ensuring good sleep quality. Some types of food promote sleep while others may cause sleep disruption,” Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, head sleep expert at Wesper, a sleep analysis company in New York, told Fox News Digital.


Here’s what to know. 

Signs that food is interfering with sleep

If after eating you’re struggling to fall asleep, waking up often during the night or experiencing heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion, your food choices could be the culprit, according to Dr. Raj Dasgupta, chief medical adviser at Sleepopolis in California.

Other warning signs include experiencing restlessness or stomach discomfort, needing more frequent bathroom breaks at night, or waking up feeling groggy or unrested.

“Having intense dreams or nightmares or noticing changes in your usual sleep routine” are other indications that food could be interfering with sleep, Dasgupta said.

“Paying attention to these cues can help you figure out if certain foods or drinks are messing with your sleep quality, so you can make adjustments as needed for better rest,” he said.

Best foods to eat for quality sleep

Foods that encourage better sleep include meals with a good amount of lean protein, meals that are high in fiber, and meals that are rich in complex carbohydrates, according to Rohrscheib.

“This food combination keeps us feeling full and satisfied throughout the night and prevents us from waking up from hunger,” she said. 

Midnight snack

“It also reduces the risk of indigestion and heartburn.” 

Foods containing dairy are especially beneficial, she said, because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is essential for the production of serotonin and melatonin, two chemicals needed for sleep.

“Food choice is an essential consideration for ensuring good sleep quality.”

Bananas can also help promote sleep, according to Dasgupta.

“They contain magnesium and tryptophan, which can help you relax and boost production of sleep-inducing hormones,” he told Fox News Digital. 

Bowl of peanuts

Almonds also provide magnesium for muscle relaxation; they contain protein and healthy fats to keep blood sugar levels stable, he said. 

“Cherries contain natural melatonin, potentially helping to regulate your sleep-wake cycles,” Dasgupta said.


Oatmeal is also a sleep-friendly food. 

“Its complex carbohydrates increase serotonin levels, while its melatonin content helps to regulate sleep,” said Dasgupta.

As we all hear around Thanksgiving time, turkey is rich in tryptophan, facilitating the production of serotonin and melatonin, Dasgupta noted. 

A bunch of bananas sitting on a cashier checkout scale.

“Kiwi is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and serotonin, all of which support sleep pattern regulation,” he said.

Dasgupta also recommends eating Greek yogurt to promote improved sleep, as its calcium content assists in the body’s use of tryptophan for melatonin production, while its protein helps maintain blood sugar levels.


“Finally, warm milk, with its tryptophan content and comforting warmth, can help you relax” for a good night’s sleep, he said. 

Those who are lactose-intolerant can opt for warm almond milk.

Foods that can disrupt sleep

Some foods are more likely to cause indigestion and heartburn, which makes it difficult to fall asleep and maintain sleep, according to Rohrscheib.

“This includes foods with high fat or acid content, foods containing caffeine, or spicy foods,” she said.

Dasgupta agreed that eating heavy or spicy foods ahead of bedtime can cause stomach discomfort, heartburn and acid reflux, which can make it harder to settle down comfortably. 

fried chicken

“Greasy or heavy meals take longer to digest, which can leave you feeling uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep,” he advised. 

Caffeine is also a common culprit in sleep disruption — experts recommend avoiding it in the hours leading up to bedtime.


“Any food containing caffeine, even small amounts, should be avoided to prevent sleep disruption,” Rohrscheib said. “This includes coffee, some teas, sodas, energy drinks and some chocolates.”

It’s best to abstain from alcohol as well, Dasgupta said. “While it might seem like a nightcap, it messes with your sleep cycles, leading to worse sleep quality.”

Person drinking soda

Highly processed foods and foods containing high amounts of sugar cause a quick spike in glucose levels and increase the risk of a “blood sugar crash,” also known as hypoglycemia, Rohrscheib warned. 

“When we’re hypoglycemic, our brain will attempt to wake us up to eat more food to normalize our blood glucose levels,” she said. “Thus, these foods should be avoided before bedtime.”

“Consuming too much and making yourself over-full is likely to make you uncomfortable and cause poor sleep quality.”

“Lastly, processed or junk foods, loaded with additives and unhealthy fats, can throw off your sleep patterns,” Dasgupta added.

Portion size is also a factor in sleep quality, both experts agreed.

“Regardless of the type of meal you eat, consuming too much and making yourself over-full is likely to make you uncomfortable and cause poor sleep quality,” Rohrscheib said. 

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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