Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 8.02.15 PMExperts say that people ages 18 and older should get 8 hours of sleep each night.  Between work, family, friends, TV, and computers, settling down for a full 8 hours can become a pretty lofty goal.  In fact, studies show that 70 million Americans are currently affected by sleep problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation and disorders cost Americans over $100 billion per year in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick days, and property damage.  Stress, racing minds, and worry can all contribute to sleep deprivation.  These factors can be extremely difficult to control.  There is, however, one factor that you have complete control over – what you eat.  Certain foods have a proven tendency to prevent sleep. Here are 8 foods you may want to avoid during dinner and before bedtime.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes and other foods such as eggplants, red wine, soy-sauce, and aged cheeses are rich in an amino-acid called tyramine. Tyramine triggers the brain to release the chemical norepinephrine – a stimulant that makes your mind race and keeps you from falling asleep.

2. Alcohol

It’s a common wives’ tale that a “nightcap” will help you sleep at night. This is only half true. One drink before bed might help you doze off, but it interferes with your sleeping patterns later in the night. Alcohol can even prevent you from achieving REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This deep cycle of sleep is important in helping your brain with concentration, memory, and fine motor skills. You should avoid drinking alcohol two to four hours before bedtime.

3. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and can be quite healthy for your heart when consumed in moderation. However, it’s best to enjoy this tasty treat as an afternoon snack.  Dark chocolate, along with cocoa and some teas, contains caffeine. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, these delicious items could prevent you from getting the shut-eye you need. Refrain from consuming items with naturally occurring caffeine four to six hours before turning in for the night.

4. Spicy Foods

Eating spicy foods at dinner and right before bedtime can increase your chance of heartburn throughout the night. This discomfort will likely keep you from sleeping soundly. Keep the hot sauce off your dinner table and be extra cautious of spicy foods within three hours of lights-out.

5. Candy

Many candies carry a major opponent to sleep: sugar. But why is sugar so harmful to your sleep routine? Candy causes your blood sugar to spike and then plummet as the body releases insulin into your system to counteract sugar intake. These changing blood sugar levels can make it hard to stay asleep through the night. Refrain from eating candy two to three hours before bedtime.

6. Heavy Meals

Heavy meals and meals that are high in protein and marbled fat (steak for example) digest extremely slowly. Going to sleep while your body is still digesting that large dinner can result in a restless night. Try to set dinnertime at least three hours before bedtime, but if you have to eat late in the evening, make sure you keep things light.

7. Carbonated Soft Drinks

Sodas are generally high in caffeine. Unlike coffee, teas, and chocolate where caffeine occurs naturally, you can check the label on these caffeine-added drinks to make sure they won’t rob you of sleep. To avoid sleepless nights, make sure you do not drink caffeinated beverages less than four hours before going to bed.

8. Broccoli

This is one of the most surprising foods that can affect sleep. Packed with nutrients and fiber, broccoli is generally very good for the body. However, slow-to-digest fiber is one of the reasons you could be in for a restless night. Whenever your body is having to work hard to break down food, it will affect your quality of sleep. Another reason that broccoli and similar veggies are harmful to a good night’s sleep is the indigestible sugar they contain. Steer clear of these vegetables in the evenings and enjoy them for lunch instead.

Source: AARP