3 surprising foods that could be to blame for your poor sleep, according to an expert

Struggling to sleep? Here are the foods you should avoid before bed

tomatoes on a green background
(Image credit: おにぎり on Unsplash)

We can all appreciate the importance of sleep. Let's say you've invested in the best mattress for you, and upgraded your pillows and duvet accordingly, but are still struggling to get a good night's sleep. Well perhaps it could be your diet that's to blame.

According to the experts at the American Sleep Association, there are certain foods that can keep you up at night. While some seem pretty obvious – everyone knows that chugging an energy drink at 9pm isn't the key to a dreamy night's sleep – others are a little more unexpected. Read on for three foods to avoid before bedtime.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are fairly acidic, which spells bad news for anyone who struggles with acid reflux or heartburn. Making your body horizontal is a ticket to further pain. "Once you lie down, gravity no longer keeps the acidity from the tomatoes from crawling up your oesophagus and making your night miserable," says the AMA. 

2. Dried fruit

While the fibre you find in dried fruit is good for your digestion, that can have some unwanted effects – namely, gas and bloating –  if you eat it too close to bedtime. The higher sugar levels  can also give you a sugar rush that you don't need when you're trying to wind down. The AMA suggests swapping in a small serving of fresh fruit instead.

3. Onions

"Onions create gas as they move through your digestive system," explains the AMA. "That gas affects the pressure within your stomach, which can send acid back up your esophagus, especially when you’re lying down flat." Another hit for the acid reflux crew then. They also point out that both raw and grilled onions have this effect, although if you're eating raw onions you've probably got bigger problems. 

… and one drink: water

You probably know that alcohol impedes your sleep, but water is always good for you, right? Well, it's not the health side that's the problem here, it's the bathroom issue. Drink too much too late, and you're more likely to have your sleep disturbed by a necessary trip to the loo in the middle of the night. "To hit your hydration goals, try to drink more during the day and less those last few hours before bedtime," suggests AMA. (Here's exactly when to stop drinking before bed.)

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.