How Does Your Diet Affect Your Sleep?

How does your diet affect your sleep?

Michael Roizen, M.D.

Michael Roizen, M.D.

As chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, Michael F. Roizen, MD, is on a mission to inform... Read more

A. Some people say that you shouldn’t have any liquids two hours before bedtime, otherwise you’re going to have to get up to urinate at some point during the night. But I think it really depends on the person. Same thing with caffeine — some people I know can have a cup of coffee an hour before bed and sleep fine, whereas another person will find it hard to sleep if she drinks a caffeinated beverage within six hours of bedtime.


Drinking alcohol within a few hours of bedtime can also interfere with sleep. You conk out as soon as your head hits the pillow, but when the alcohol gets metabolized two to three hours later, you wake up feeling alert and restless. This is a rebound effect of specific brain cells. Alcohol depresses their neuronal function, but as the alcohol wears off, the wake cycle is activated.


Eating a big meal, or spicy foods, within two hours of bed, can come back to haunt you in the form of heartburn. Lying flat allows stomach acid and bile to flow back up into the esophagus. (If you’ve got a big belly, you’re at a real disadvantage, thanks to your belly putting pressure on and pushing up on your stomach too.) Propping yourself up with a couple of pillows (or better yet, propping up the head of the bed by putting lifts or bricks under the upper bedposts of your bed) can help ease the burn, but it’s better to avoid heartburn in the first place.


Meanwhile, foods rich in tryptophan can help you sleep when eaten within two to three hours of bedtime. This amino acid helps your body make serotonin, which is good for sleep. Foods with tryptophan include beans, turkey, cheese, milk, chicken, eggs, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds and nuts.