This Skeptics question touched on the subject, but I'm more focused on studies that have been conducted under highly controlled circumstances, like a university sleep lab.

We've all heard these old wives' tales about eating before you go to bed, but is there any evidenced-based, physiological basis for certain components of foods that can cross the blood brain barrier and induce nightmares or other parasomnias?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Googling for something like "eating before bed" will bring a lot of articles by and interviews with dieticians and sleep specialists explaining some of this. Maybe the names of these experts and the terminology used will give you ideas for further research. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Jun 18, 2013 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


According to the article "Relationship between Food Intake and Sleep Pattern in Healthy Individuals" (Crispin et al. 2011), there appeared to be a gender based differences in how certain food intake affects sleep patterns. Additionally, the time the food was eaten also affects sleep patterns.

A couple of key points from the linked article's conclusions:

intake of high fat and carbohydrate foods preceding the sleeping period are associated with higher sleep latency. Other studies19,20 have demonstrated that individuals who ingested a high-glycemic index, carbohydrate-rich meal 4 hours prior to sleep presented a decrease in sleep latency. In addition to the amount of carbohydrates, the glycemic index may have an important influence on sleep patterns, especially in inducing sleepiness. Different types of fat have also been shown to influence sleep.


..Data from this study suggest that individuals who consume meals with increased fat content in the nocturnal period seem predisposed to have decreased REM sleep.


..high caloric food intake preceding the sleeping period was correlated with greater sleep latency in women (nocturnal caloric intake correlated positively with sleep latency).

(The full article is available at the above link).

Further, this About.com article, describes specific examples, such as cherries, which contain melatonin, that helps regulate sleep.

Even though the second link is not all that authorative, there are a number of peer-reviewed papers presented as its bibliography, namely:

Afaghi A, O'Connor H, Chow CM."High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset." Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Feb;85(2):426-30. (full HTML article)

Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, Hardeland R, Reiter RJ."Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus)." J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Oct;49(10):4898-902. (full PDF article)

Gruber R, Xi T, Frenette S, Robert M, Vannasinh P, Carrier J. "Sleep disturbances in prepubertal children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a home polysomnography study." Sleep. 2009 Mar 1;32(3):343-50. (Full HTML article)

Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Kasza K, Schoeller DA, Penev PD."Sleep curtailment is accompanied by increased intake of calories from snacks." Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):126-33. Epub 2008 Dec 3. (Full HTML article)

Ozsungur S, Brenner D, El-Sohemy A."Fourteen well-described caffeine withdrawal symptoms factor into three clusters." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009 Jan;201(4):541-8. Epub 2008 Sep 16.c(Full PDF article)

Shi Z, McEvoy M, Luu J, Attia J. "Dietary fat and sleep duration in Chinese men and women." Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Dec;32(12):1835-40. Epub 2008 Nov 4. (Full HTML article)

I hope this helps.


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