The Foods You Should Avoid With Insomnia: Tips & How To Sleep Better

a man sitting on a bed

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by theworldofsleepstaff

If you’re someone who struggles with insomnia, you know how frustrating it can be to try to get a good night’s sleep. Insomnia can be caused by various things, including stress, anxiety, and even certain foods.

While there are many possible causes of insomnia, one of the most common is simply eating the wrong foods before bed.

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the worst offenders regarding foods that can cause or worsen insomnia. So read on as we try to make your nighttime a little bit better by showing you the types of food you should avoid with insomnia.

But First: What Is Insomnia?

Before we decide which foods to avoid, let’s first take a step back and define what insomnia is.

In short, insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

There are many possible causes of insomnia, but some of the most common include stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.

photograph of a woman touching her face

Insomnia Risk Factors

Certain things can make someone more likely to experience insomnia. These risk factors include:

Stress: One of the most common causes of insomnia is stress. Whether work-related, family or financial stress, stress can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Anxiety: Another common cause of insomnia is anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by various factors, including worry about the future, stress, and genetics.

Depression: Depression is another significant risk factor for insomnia. People who are depressed often have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night.

Chronic pain: People who suffer from chronic pain often have difficulty sleeping due to the pain.

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics about insomnia let’s take a look at which foods you should avoid if you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.

The Link Between Insomnia and Food

There are several different ways that the foods we eat can affect our sleep.

For one, certain foods can contain caffeine, a stimulant that makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

Foods high in sugar can also cause issues, leading to energy crashes that make it hard to stay asleep. Additionally, some foods can cause heartburn or indigestion, which can make it uncomfortable to sleep.

Finally, some foods contain nutrients that can interfere with sleep. For example, foods high in protein can make it more difficult to stay asleep, as they can increase alertness.

a man lying on the bed while using his mobile phone

What Foods Should Be Avoided With Insomnia: The 15 Worst Offenders

Diet and sleep are linked, and so what you eat throughout the day can have a direct effect on how well you sleep. Below are 15 types of food you should avoid with insomnia. Cutting them out could make your nights so much better.

1. Caffeine

This one should be obvious. Caffeine is a stimulant well-known for its ability to keep people awake. So if you’re trying to sleep, the last thing you want is a cup of coffee or tea. But unfortunately, energy drinks contain enough caffeine to keep you up all night.

You might also be surprised to learn that chocolate contains caffeine. So if you like to eat chocolate before bed, you might want to rethink that strategy.

Some foods that contain caffeine include:

– coffee

– tea

– energy drinks

close up photography of cup of coffee

2. Alcohol

While it might seem like alcohol would help you sleep, it does the opposite. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it might make you feel drowsy at first, it will disrupt your sleep later in the night. So when it comes to asking what foods you should avoid with insomnia, alcohol is one of the top offenders.

It is also said that alcohol will intensify the effects of snoring and sleep apnea. So if you or your partner suffers from either of those conditions, it’s best to avoid alcohol before bed.

Some drinks that contain alcohol include:

– beer

– wine

– liquor

woman with white flower accent headdress leaning her head on table beside half filled wine glass

3. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can cause heartburn and indigestion, both of which can make it difficult to sleep.

When you are trying to sleep, your body is in a relaxed state. This means that the valve between your stomach and oesophagus is more likely to open, which can cause stomach acid to rise into your throat. This can cause heartburn, which can be extremely uncomfortable and make it difficult to sleep.

Spicy foods can also cause indigestion, leading to stomach pain and bloating. This can make it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position and keep you up all night.

Some foods that are spicy include:

– chilli peppers

– curry

– hot sauce

pile of green and red chilis

4. Fatty Foods

Fatty foods are hard to digest and can cause indigestion, heartburn, and stomach pain. All of these can make sleeping difficult, so avoiding fatty foods before bed is best.

Avoid fatty foods altogether if you are fond of eating late at night. Instead, opt for something lighter that won’t sit in your stomach like a brick all night long.

Some examples of fatty foods include:

– hamburgers

– french fries

– fried chicken

photo of juicy burger on wooden surface

5. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, which is excellent for your immune system. However, they can also be quite acidic and cause heartburn or indigestion.

Eating something acidic before bed can make sleeping difficult as your body tries to digest the food. If you love citrus fruits, eat them earlier in the day and not right before bed.

Some examples of citrus fruits include:

– oranges

– lemons

– grapefruits

– limes

orange fruit

6. Black Tea

Tea is a great way to relax before bed, but not all teas are created equal. For example, black tea contains caffeine, making it difficult to fall asleep.

If you’re looking for a tea to help you sleep, opt for herbal tea instead. Chamomile and lavender tea are two great options that can help promote sleep.

photography of blue ceramic coffee cup

7. Cakes & Pastries

Sweets are tempting before bed, but they can cause a sugar crash that will keep you up all night. Cakes and pastries are also high in carbohydrates, leading to restless sleep.

It is well known that eating a heavy meal before bed can cause indigestion and heartburn. So, if you’re looking for something sweet to eat before bed, opt for a small piece of fruit instead.

If you have a sweet tooth, try a small piece of dark chocolate instead. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which can actually help promote sleep.

sliced chocolate cake on ceramic saucer

8. White Bread

White bread is made with refined flour, which can cause a blood sugar spike and crash. This can lead to restless sleep.

Whole grain bread is a better option before bed, as it contains complex carbohydrates that your body will slowly absorb. This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the night.

baked bread breakfast buns

9. Red Meat

Eating a large steak before bed is a recipe for disaster. Red meat is hard to digest and can cause indigestion, heartburn, and bloating.

Stick to leaner meats like chicken or fish if you want something to eat before bed. And, if you opt for red meat, eat it early in the day, so your body has time to digest it before you sleep.

Remember that red meat is high in fat and calories, so limiting your intake is best.

steak food

10. Fried Foods

Like red meat, fried foods are hard to digest and can cause indigestion, heartburn, and bloating. They’re also high in fat and calories, leading to weight gain.

The problem with fried foods is that they’re often used as late-night snacks. Instead, if you’re looking for something to eat before bed, opt for a healthier option like popcorn or fruit.

So, if you’re looking for a late-night snack, opt for something light and easy to digest. For example, a small piece of fruit or a handful of nuts would be a better option than french fries or onion rings.

fried potatoes

11. Cured Foods

Cured foods are high in sodium, which can cause water retention and bloat. They’re also high in fat and calories, leading to weight gain.

Cured meats are some of the worst foods you can eat before bed.

Not only is it essential to avoid these foods before bed, but it’s also essential to avoid them during the day. This is because eating a high-fat diet can increase the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.

close up shot of a person slicing salami on wooden chopping board

12. Canned Soup

Canned soup is high in sodium, which can cause water retention and bloat. It’s also high in fat and calories, leading to weight gain.

Canned soup is one of the worst foods you can eat before bed.

In addition, canned soup is often made with unhealthy ingredients, such as MSG. MSG is a food additive linked to headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

brown soup in white ceramic bowl

13. Nightshades

Nightshades are a group of plants that include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. These plants contain a chemical called alkaloids, which can be toxic in large amounts.

Alkaloids can cause inflammation, which can lead to insomnia.

In addition, nightshades are often treated with pesticides. These chemicals can also cause inflammation and should be avoided at all costs.


14. Chocolate

Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Caffeine can cause insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.

In addition, chocolate is high in sugar. Sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to insomnia.

Chocolate is also high in fat. Fat can cause weight gain, which can also lead to insomnia.

coffee dark candy chocolate

15. Processed Foods

Sugar, alcohol, caffeine, artificial additives, and other processed foods can all lead to insomnia. While some people are more sensitive to these substances, avoiding them is best if you’re having trouble sleeping.

Most of these foods are also stimulating, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. So if you’re struggling with insomnia, cut out the processed foods and see if that makes a difference.

fries and burger on plate

Foods That May Help With Insomnia

So we’ve looked at what foods you should avoid with insomnia, but what about the opposite? In fact certain foods can help you sleep better at night. Here are some of the best foods to eat if you’re struggling with insomnia.

1. Almonds

Almonds are a source of magnesium, which is a natural relaxant. Magnesium can help reduce stress and anxiety, leading to improved sleep.

In addition, almonds are a good source of protein. Protein can help you feel fuller for longer, preventing nighttime cravings.

brown almond nuts on white ceramic bowl

2. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea used for centuries to promote sleep. Chamomile contains apigenin, which is a flavonoid that binds to GABA receptors.

GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps promote relaxation. Chamomile tea can also help reduce anxiety and stress, improving sleep.

3. Cherry Juice

Cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

In addition, cherry juice is high in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a common cause of insomnia.

4. Bananas

Bananas are a good source of potassium and magnesium, both of which can help reduce muscle tension. Muscle tension is a common cause of insomnia.

In addition, bananas contain tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps promote sleep.

yellow banana fruit on white surface

Other Cures for Insomnia

Asking yourself what foods should you avoid with insomnia is a great first step. But if you’re still struggling with insomnia after making some lifestyle and diet changes, there are other things you can try.

For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for insomnia, and it can be done either in person or online.

There are also medication options for those who need them. While some people are hesitant to take medication for insomnia, many safe and effective options are available. If you’ve tried everything else and you’re still struggling, talk to your doctor about what medication might be proper for you.

Get Help From A Professional

If you’re still having trouble sleeping after making lifestyle changes and trying other treatments, it’s time to get help from a professional. Insomnia can be a complex problem to solve on your own, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

A sleep specialist can help you identify the root cause of your insomnia and develop a treatment plan that will work for you. Then, with the right help, you can finally get the rest you need and start enjoying your life again.

a man lying down on bed

What Foods Should You Avoid With Insomnia: The Bottom Line

If you’re struggling with insomnia, there are many things you can do to get relief. Making lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and eating sleep-promoting foods, can make a big difference. Asking what foods you should avoid with insomnia, as you’ve done today, is a great step too.

There are also treatment options available, such as CBT and medication. However, if you’ve tried everything and you’re still not sleeping well, it’s time to get help from a professional. With the proper treatment, you can finally get the rest you need and start enjoying your life again.