Are These Foods Keeping You Awake At Night?

Are you having issues with getting a good night’s sleep? If you’re struggling with getting a decent amount of zzzzs, you’re not alone. Roughly 70 million U.S. adults suffer from sleeplessness, and the sleep-snatching culprit could be what they’re eating!

Here are 10 foods that you can blame for robbing you of a restful slumber…


It doesn’t matter if you swill a tumbler of scotch, a glass of red wine, or a pint of beer—no alcohol will help you relax and fall asleep, even though you believe it will. Studies actually confirm that drinking alcohol within a few hours of bedtime will cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night because it disrupts vital REM sleep.

Aged Cheeses

If you like a cheesy treat before bedtime, be sure you’re noshing on soft, fresh cheese. Why? Hard, aged cheeses, like cheddar, contain tyramine, an amino acid that stimulates the brain so much that it prevents sleep.


It’s really a no brainer; caffeine too soon before you hit the hay will keep you tossing and turning all night long. So start reaching for decaf if you want a cup of Joe before bedtime or opt for soda water with lemon instead of soda pop—without the kick in the pants.


You might try to blame it on that caffeinated tea or soda, however, many over-the-counter medicines you take for pain relief and sinus congestion can and will keep you wide-awake through the night. Many do contain stimulant ingredients, like caffeine, so be sure to check the labels and take them during the daytime only.

Smoked or Cured Meats

Sardines or jerky before bed could be the very thing keeping you up at night—and not due to indigestion. Most fermented foods, take your smoked fish cured meats as a good example, are rich in an ingredient called tyramine, which aids the fermentation process, but also keeps your brain buzzing with activity.


Chocoholics might delight in a few squares of dark chocolate while they watch a favorite sitcom before bed. However, keep in mind that both dark and milk chocolate contains caffeine—oftentimes as much as a cup of coffee.


Sure, tomato-based foods rich in vitamin C are good for you. However, you might want to keep them designated to the daytime hours. It ends up that the acids contained within tomatoes often result in heartburn and make for a tummy-troubling night’s sleep.

Too Much Water

Nothing wakes you up faster in the midst of deep sleep than a full and demanding bladder. And drinking too much water or herbal tea too close to shut-eye will have you waking you up in the middle-of-the-night to run to the bathroom.

Red Fatty Meats

Red meat is high in iron, but fatty cuts—like steak—are also high in cholesterol and protein, which means they digest super slowly and mess with your hours reserved for precious shut-eye.  In addition, if your diet is rich in fat and protein, you may be at risk for developing sleep apnea.

Spicy Foods

If you like to turn up the heat—in your food that is—you might consider the consequences to your slumber. Spicy foods will often result in a night of tossing and turning due to indigestion or intestinal upset. Instead, put a cap on the spicy foods and let them digest for at least 3 hours before bed.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.