By Allie Firestone, DivineCaroline
I’m the queen of the late-night snack. I picked up the habit as a college student living in San Diego, finishing way too many nights at 24-hour Mexican food joints. Ever since my first taste of those carne asada fries (basically nachos heaped on top of French fries), I was hooked on “the fourth meal”—fries, thick-crusted pizza, spicy nachos—you name it, I’ll eat it. Unfortunately, my favorite meal often has me scarfing the absolute worst things to put in my body at 2 a.m. Now, as a supposed grownup with a not-quite-as-fast metabolism, I wondered which foods are better choices when late-night hunger pangs strike.
According the Mayo Clinic, no particular foods help us sleep better. On the other hand, there are foods that can wreak havoc on our shut-eye. I dug around and found out which foods to avoid and which to choose to evade that next-day food hangover.
Heavy, High-Fat Meals
My beloved carne asada fries and thick-crust cheesy pizza fall into this category. These choices are bad, bad, bad if we’re looking to get a restful sleep post-feast. The cheese and oil are made of fat, which sits in our digestive tract the longest of any type of food. To push it through, our bodies require a bunch of energy—this makes it tricky to get cozy.
Eating too much hot sauce or spicy chips can cause physical discomfort when it’s time to lie down—especially if you’re prone to heartburn, like me. “Spicy food also gives you an endorphin rush, making it that much harder to get to sleep,” says Lynn Smithson, a San Diego-based nutritionist. Since spiciness keeps our brains running on full power far longer than the time it takes to consume it, saving the spice-induced endorphin rush for daylight is probably a safe bet.
The stimulant is found in a lot more than a cup of coffee. Candy, ice cream, and especially that dark chocolate bar stashed in the freezer can contain as much as a cup of coffee does. Caffeine increases the activity of our nervous systems, keeping our thoughts racing as we lie in bed.