Have Diabetes? Can’t Sleep? Don’t Eat These Tonight

There is a lot of evidence that sleeping well improves diabetes control, so anything that will help us sleep better catches my interest. I am also drawn to ideas that make life easier with Type 2 diabetes, especially when they involve food.

You may know about tryptophan, the amino acid that has the ability to increase melatonin at night, which can improve our sleep. But I have learned that there are also things we should not eat in the hours before bedtime. Some make it harder to fall asleep, while others might affect the quality or duration of our sleep.


Here is a partial list and the reasons why you may want to avoid these foods in the evening. You have a unique metabolism, so not all of them will necessarily affect you. However, reading this list may give you insight into why it is hard to get to sleep sometimes.

Did you know that cured meats can keep you awake? They contain tyramine, a substance in various foods that leads to a boost in brain activity, which delays sleep. Tyramine is also found in aged cheese and fermented foods.

This means a submarine sandwich with salami and Swiss cheese is not a good nighttime snack. Of course, any heavy meal takes longer to digest. That is why it is better to wait at least three or four hours before trying to sleep after eating something like that.

Meats like steak and roast, which contain a lot of protein, spend a long time in your digestive system, so it is better to eat them earlier in the day, giving you more time to digest them before you lie down. Fried foods and other items high in fat are also digested slowly.

It can be hard to stay asleep after a heavy meal, and aging with diabetes often means your digestion has slowed down. It may be easier on you to have the foods mentioned above for lunch instead of supper.

Highly spiced foods and foods high in acids such as tomato-based products can lead to heartburn if they are eaten shortly before bedtime. Heartburn will definitely disturb sleep.

But if chili with beans keeps you awake, it may not be just because of the spices. Beans are high in fiber, which is very good for you, but that fiber means they take longer to digest. Beans are also gas producers. The same holds true for broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. All three are full of fiber, and they often cause gas because the sugar in them cannot be digested. They are great for a diabetic diet. Just do not eat them too close to bedtime.

If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid it in the two or three hours before bed. Remember, caffeine is not only in coffee and tea. Read the labels on soda cans to see if it is included. There is some in hot cocoa and chocolate too. A few medications, like those for headaches, also have caffeine.

Some people drink alcoholic beverages at night to relax, but alcohol reduces REM sleep, a restorative type of sleep you need to feel truly rested in the morning. Besides this, sleep doctors tell their patients that the alcohol leaves your system within hours after you fall asleep, waking you up. The relaxation effect is canceled out, so it is best not to drink it in roughly the four hours before you go to bed.

If you do not want to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it might help to restrict your water intake for a few hours before bed. The cutoff time for drinking water is up to you. Everyone is different.

Eating high-water-content foods at night can also lead to waking up for a bathroom break. These include things like celery, cucumbers, and watermelon. You might also want to avoid natural diuretics at night. Fruits high in potassium, citrus fruits like lemons, and pineapple are on this list, along with coffee and tea (potentially even decaffeinated).

These are common foods that have been known to disturb sleep, but it is not a complete list. If your sleep is disturbed by food, you might want to make a list of your own so you know what things will keep you from sleeping through the night. Stomach problems and sensitivities change as we age with diabetes.

We also have to deal with high and low blood sugars that disturb sleep. Knowing what works for you as an evening snack is valuable information if you have been told by your doctor to eat before you go to bed.

I hope that in all of this information you find something that makes dealing with the quirks of Type 2 diabetes a bit easier for you. Sleep well.

Dealing with diabetic neuropathy? Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn about effective ways to soothe nerves and manage pain, numbness, and other symptoms from nurse David Spero!

  • JohnC

    And of course the most important consideration when deciding what to eat before bed — where your blood sugar levels are going to be during the night and when you awake in the morning…