To sleep well, you should have dinner two to three hours before going to bed. But also avoid certain foods and drinks that delay falling asleep and promote waking up at night.
Do you have trouble falling asleep at night? Do you often wake up at night? Are you tired when you wake up? According to the latest figures from Public Health France, more than a third of French people sleep less than 6 hours a night and more than a quarter are in sleep debt, which corresponds to a sleep time lower than their needs. Among the causes of sleep disturbances is food. A dinner too rich, too late, taking foods and / or drinks that stimulate awakening... are all mistakes to avoid in the evening. Explanations and advice with Dr Alexandra Dalu, anti-aging doctor, nutritionist and author of the book “The 100 received ideas that prevent you from feeling well”.
1. Pasta, too heavy to digest!
“In the evening, we avoid pasta and potatoes and we favor legumes such as lentils and chickpeas or brown rice, rich in fiber which fills up quickly and avoids cravings in the evening”, recommends Dr. Alexandra Dalu. Starchy foods like pasta and potatoes can make it hard to digest and delay falling asleep.
Ideally: “If you go to bed late but you have dinner at 8 p.m., you will be hungry around 11:30 p.m. In this case, eating flageolet beans, red beans, rice or quinoa will keep you going for a long time. foods, you will eliminate toxins when you wake up because they effectively fight against constipation.”
2. Red meat prevents sleep
A lover of red meat, it is better to avoid it in the evening. Due to its high protein and fat content, it prevents you from sleeping well. Proteins decrease the production of serotonin which is essential for the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep. Therefore “they increase alertness”, explains Dr. Alexandra Dalu. The fats in red meat are difficult to digest. However, who says poor digestion says disturbed sleep. The best : “Prefer small amounts of meat or a small piece of fish or even tofu at dinner.” And if you’re craving red meat one night, choose a 5% fat steak or beef tenderloin, which are lower-fat cuts.
3. Rice pudding for dessert
Vanilla cream, rice pudding… Yes, all these desserts are very tempting, but in addition to being bad for the nutritional balance, they are heavy to digest therefore can interfere with sleep. As a reminder, digestion increases the body’s temperature all the more as the meal has been heavy. However, to fall asleep well, the temperature must drop. The best : if you want a dessert at the end of your dinner, eat a natural yoghurt or a compote (if you don’t have a weight problem because the compote is sweeter than fresh fruit).
4. Herbal tea before sleeping = waking up at night
HAS valerian, passionflower, verbena, hawthorn flower… Because they help you fall asleep, you appreciate your evening herbal tea. Fine, but what time do you drink it? “A herbal tea should be drunk at the end of dinner and not before going to bed because otherwise you will be woken up at night to go to the bathroom”, recalls Alexandra Dalu. Without forgetting that it is necessary 3 hours in water to reach the kidneys “so if we drink at midnight, we will be woken up at 3 am”. Drink hot, the herbal tea also has the advantage of lowering the body temperature which facilitates the onset of sleep. To note : If you have to take medication in the evening, it must be done with very little water to limit nocturnal awakenings.
5. No tuna steak, too high in protein
Swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, fruit bat, tuna… You should avoid eating large fish in the evening because they are rich in protein, which is itself exciting. “Preference should be given to small fish such as sardines, small mackerel, herring and salmon” advises nutritionist Alexandra Dalu. To know : large fish accumulate more contaminants such as mercury and are therefore not recommended during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and for children under 3 years old. For tuna: once a week, no more, for these people.
6. No coffee after 4 p.m.
It goes without saying, will you say? But it is still good to remember that in the evening, we do not drink coffee or tea before going to sleep. Simply because they are exciting because of the caffeine they contain. While effects can vary from person to person, it’s generally recommended (especially if you’re not used to drinking coffee) to avoid it after 4 p.m. For tea, prefer rooibos-type drinks that are devoid of theine and therefore have no negative effects on falling asleep. Know it : 6 hours after consuming coffee, half of the caffeine ingested is still present in the body!
7. Chocolate in the evening harms digestion and rest
Because it contains caffeine, chocolate is exciting. It is not recommended to consume it in the evening because it can disturb sleep and hinder the quality of sleep. Especially if you can’t stop! In addition, chocolate – especially white and milk chocolate – represents a significant contribution of fats that affect digestion and rest. If you crack: favor dark chocolate, at least 80% cocoa to benefit from its richness in magnesium which relaxes, and stop at two squares.
8. No fries in the evening
The more fat you eat at night, the worse you will sleep. So ban fries and all fried foods in general (donut…). A Brazilian study published in 2008 showed that the fat intake at dinner impaired REM sleep of about fifty volunteers and raised their sleep arousal and apnea index. This harmful effect of fat would come in particular from the difficulty in digesting it. If your body is working on digestion, it is not able to fall asleep. In addition, the Sleep Institute explains that a diet that is too fatty could modify the body’s sensitivity to orexin, a hormone that stimulates wakefulness and contributes to the desire to eat.
9. No alcohol cocktails, they are too stimulating!
“Alcohol is a stimulant that decreases the quantity and quality of the sleep hormone what is melatonin ahead Alexandra Dalu. It is not recommended to consume it in the evening. Alcohol also causes a relaxation of muscle tone which promotes snoring and respiratory disorders (such as sleep apnea) which also affects sleep and can cause waking up at night, especially in the second part. Watch out for evening cocktails : “You have to be careful with cocktails, warns Alexandra Dalu. With them, we combine alcohol and fast sugars, which are very exciting and therefore unsuitable for sleep.
10. No sodas, too exciting!
Enriched with caffeine, guarana, taurine, vitamins or ginseng, many sodas excite, prevent drowsiness and disturb sleep. In 2016, an American study of 18,800 people showed that the most heavy soda drinkers slept less than 5 hours by night. Another published in 2010 and conducted on 200 children showed that those who drank the most sodas slept less and less well than those who did not. Sodas should be avoided in general, and especially in the evening. To know : The consumption of a 250ml can of energizing soda provides on average the caffeine equivalent of two espresso coffees (50 ml) or more than two cans of cola sodas (330 ml).
Fast 12 hours
There are foods to avoid in the evening and habits, too, to forget. For example, eating late when getting up early can be responsible for gastric acidity. “There is an interprandial physiological fast (between meals) to respect, recalls Alexandra Dalu, Apart from these meals, we don’t nibble anything, we don’t take anything apart from water. But also a sufficient fast is observed between dinner and breakfast the next day.” The best : “In case of quiet evenings I advise having dinner around 7:30 p.m. and until 8:30 p.m. and the next morning having breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in order to accumulate 12 hours of fasting.” Same thing if you dine until 9:30 p.m., you have to try to wait until 10 a.m. the next day to have your first meal.
Reprogram your sleep
Subway, work, sleep… An intense, sometimes disjointed rhythm can put a strain on sleep. “But sleep is a program like software and sometimes you have to readjust it” explains Alexandra Dalu. Concretely ? “It’s not always just a matter of food. When you’ve been taking sleeping pills for years, for example, you can wean yourself, there are interesting plants. There can also be a hormonal imbalance or deficiencies behind a sleep disorder. This requires appropriate and personalized medical care.”
Thanks to Dr Alexandra Dalu, anti-aging doctor and nutritionist.