Iowa Sleep Blog

How Holiday Treats Can Affect Sleep

Monday, November 21, 2016

The holiday season brings family, friends, and food. Lots and lots of food, especially festive, holiday treats that only come around during this time of year. But, don’t over indulge in some of these special items as it can affect your sleep at night.

Below we recap how the following popular holiday food items can affect your sleep at night:


Having an alcoholic beverage late in the evening can affect your sleep, even though it may make you feel sleepy. A study found that alcohol may increase deep sleep at the beginning of the night, but causes disruptions to the REM sleep phases later in the night. REM is a restorative stage of sleep where dreams happen, but also when memories are stored and healing occurs. For the average person, it takes about four to five hours for the body to fully digest the alcohol and to reach their deepest REM cycle, so consuming alcohol close to bedtime should be avoided as best as possible.


While many believe this to be an old wives tale, studies have shown that turkey really does make you feel drowsy due to the essential amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan helps the body produce a B-vitamin that helps the body produce serotonin, which is the chemical that makes you sleepy. The body cannot make this amino acid itself and must rely on our diets to supply it. It can be also found in other poultry, cheese, yogurt and some fish.

Warm drinks

On a chilly Iowa evening, it’s fun to make a cup of hot cocoa after playing in the snow or enjoying holiday lights. But, be careful of hidden caffeine that can be in your favorite hot chocolates or teas. It’s important to know when to stop consuming treats and other beverages that may contain alcohol. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bedtime can reduce the amount of time spent falling asleep. If you need something warm in your stomach before bed time, try some of these relaxing beverages.


Sugary sweets do more than just provide a short sugar high. They can also keep you up at night. After the initial surge of energy wears off, your blood sugar levels will crash, leaving you feeling lethargic and sleepy. But, your body will be working hard to break down the sugary foods and process it into energy, which can also disrupt your sleep and wake you up throughout the night.

Many of the treats we indulge in during the holidays are special to the season. Be sure to enjoy in moderation, while still eating a balanced diet and incorporating regular exercise. If you’re curious to learn more about how certain foods effect your sleep patterns, drop us a question through our simple, online question form and the Iowa Sleep doctors will tell you more.