This common habit could increase heartburn around bedtime. Here’s how to avoid it.
Your eyes are getting heavy, and you’ve turned in for the night. The only problem is, there’s a rumble in your stomach, and your chest feels like it’s on fire. Sound familiar? Occasional heartburn before bed is a common issue for many people, and the good news is you can fix it by tweaking your eating habits.
According to Martin Reed, MEd, CHES, CCSH, a certified clinical sleep health expert (CCSH) with a master’s degree in health and wellness education from the University of Delaware, certain types of food tend to promote sleep while others can make sleep more difficult. Follow his nighttime eating tips, and you’ll be drifting off into deep sleep in no time.
Tips to Avoid Heartburn Before Bed
Say no to late-night meals
According to Reed, the digestive system slows at night, which makes processing evening meals more difficult. Moreover, if your gut and intestines are in use and not completely relaxed, that churning can be disruptive as well. Stop eating heavy meals close to bedtime, especially if high protein foods are on the menu. “High protein foods may make sleep more difficult since protein can increase alertness and interfere with the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep,” says Reed.
Avoid certain types of foods for dinner
Some foods can make sleep difficult by causing heartburn, indigestion, or gas. Anything high in fat, spicy foods, and dishes with beans shouldn't be consumed close to your bedtime, says Reed, since they can cause these kinds of discomfort in the abdomen and chest.
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If you must snack, choose a balanced carb
You can’t just gorge on #allthecarbs after dark. But Reed says a small, higher carbohydrate snack may be beneficial in the hour or two before bedtime, as carbs can help the brain access tryptophan— an amino acid that causes sleepiness — faster. Carbs aren’t created equally though. Look for a complex whole grain, which Reed says can help increase serotonin levels in the body. Simple, sugary carbs, on the other hand, can cause a burst in your energy levels, which can keep you awake.
Cut off your drink intake
“Not only can evening fluid intake interrupt sleep because we will need to use the bathroom during the night, but drinks that contain caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep,” says Reed. “Caffeine is a known stimulant and can be found in many foods such as chocolate, cocoa, ice cream, and even yogurt.” Always check the nutritional labels when eating or drinking in the evening. Reed also suggests limiting fluid intake to no more than one cup in the four-hour window before bed to minimize nighttime awakening. If you find that drinking decaf tea or warm milk helps you sleep, Reed says there is no reason to stop this practice. Just don’t go overboard with multiple cups.
Don’t use alcohol as a crutch “Although alcohol can help us fall asleep, it disrupts sleep,” says Reed. “That’s because as the body breaks down alcohol, it creates a stimulant effect.” It’s best to limit alcohol consumption to one glass of wine or beer with dinner, three to four hours before bedtime, to help minimize any sleep disruption.
Getting a good night’s sleep is all about routine, relaxation, and lack of stimulus. Don’t let eating and drinking rev your systems up and keep you awake in the process. Everybody is different, so find what works best for you, but these general suggestions should help.