The 5 Foods At Thanksgiving Dinner That Could Make It Hard To Sleep, According To Experts

by Julia Guerra

Grab the stretchiest pair of pants you own, wash them, iron them, and hang them at the front of your closet so they’re readily available come Nov. 22. That’s right, friends: Turkey Day is weeks away, and I don’t know about you, but my body is ready to indulge in all the stuffing, rye bread, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie it can handle before passing out in front of my parents’ television. But contrary to popular belief, not all Thanksgiving delicacies induce those famous post-dinner sleepy feels. There are actually some Thanksgiving foods that make it hard to sleep scattered amongst your holiday spread, which basically means, if you don’t want to be this year’s designated sleeping beauty or wide awake after the celebrations have ended, you’ll just have to be a little more mindful of what you’re putting on your plate. Or, you know, don’t, and just be aware of the fact that if you can’t score even a few hours of shut-eye before Black Friday shopping, then your menu might be to blame.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly say Thanksgiving gets a bad rap for the food comas that ensue after a large turkey dinner, because, TBH, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a delicious nap after an equally delicious meal. IMO, it’s kind of what dreams are made of. But there’s definitely a lot of buzz around the subject every year. Everyone wants to know about the most sleep-inducing foods on the table — not to avoid them, per se, but just to know what’s causing their eyelids to droop well before the sun even sets. But what about the other food dishes your relatives contribute to the meal? What do they do for your bedtime behavior?

The truth is, every piece of food you pop into your mouth — be it on Thanksgiving, or the rest of the 364 days of the year — contributes to your sleep hygiene, aka the lifestyle habits that prepare your body and mind for sleep, in one way or another. Some foods, like those that are heavy in carbohydrates and starches, tend to make you sleepy. Others, like anything with caffeine, processed sugars, or alcohol, have the opposite effect, triggering a buzz that wakes you up.

As much as I encourage each and every one of you to indulge in all the delicious foods your Thanksgiving feast has to offer, it's worth knowing which dishes are making you sleepy, and which ones are making it difficult to rest. Here are a few foods that might negatively affect your ability to sleep this Thanksgiving.

Don't Cheers Too Many Celebratory Cocktails

Raise a toast with family to celebrate what you're thankful for at the dinner table; maybe even indulge in a fall-themed mimosa at your Friendsgiving brunch. But try to stick to one or two cocktails early on in the day, because even though alcohol can make you feel sleepy, Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, Swisse Wellness consultant and author the book 2 Day Diabetes Diet, tells Elite Daily it also "impairs your body’s natural sleep cycle." Translation: You'll fall asleep easily, but you might wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep.

As per the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol can trigger a quick onset of sleep, but as fast as that drowsiness comes, it can also wear off at a moment's notice. This results in a very sleepy, possibly hungover version of yourself, and you'll probably wake up groggy because your body's been tricked into thinking it's gotten enough rest. I'm not too positive that's worth an extra glass of champagne, TBH.

Spicy Side Dishes

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, D.O., osteopathic physician, integrative medicine specialist, and nutritionist for BUBS Naturals, recommends looking out for spicy foods in your Thanksgiving spread. If you're hoping to score some shut-eye once the party's over, you've put away all the yummy leftovers, and you're feeling quite exhausted from playing hostess, Lyon advises steering clear of the spicy stuff.

"If you are prone to reflux and have a reflux trigger food before sleep," Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, explains over email, "that regurgitation in your esophagus may keep you awake." In other words, things like mint, garlic, onion, and spices, might be a no-go if you're hoping to get to bed at a reasonable time.

Coffee, Tea, And Pretty Much Anything Else That's Caffeinated

I made the heart-wrenching decision to break up with caffeine in 2016 after my doctor said it can trigger my anxiety attacks, but aside from that not so fun fact, caffeine can also do a number on your sleep schedule. That means coffee, tea, chocolate (I know, I KNOW), hot chocolate, and even some ice creams might keep you up all night post-Thanksgiving. According to Palinski-Wade, these foods "act as a stimulant and prevent you from falling asleep while impairing your sleep cycle."

Besides, the latest you should be drinking coffee in general, if you don't want it to interfere with your sleep, is six to eight hours before bed. After that, it's probably best to stick to decaf.

Basically Everything On The Dessert Table

Friendly reminder: I am not, in any way, shape, or form, suggesting you should stay away from desserts on Thanksgiving. Food may be fuel, but it's also meant to be enjoyed. Plus, this holiday only comes around once a year, so you should definitely take the opportunity to indulge if that is what you want to do.

That being said, the cold hard truth is that sugary and salty foods aren't great for your sleep. An inevitable sugar high is one factor, though that'll usually result in a crash, but the real issue these types of foods bring about, Auslander Moreno says, is that they'll make you thirsty AF. "We've all woken up at 3 a.m. gasping for water after a high salt/high sugar meal," she tells Elite Daily.

In order to prevent this, Auslander Moreno suggests "practicing moderation in all food choices at Thanksgiving," and, of course, making sure you're drinking enough water throughout the holiday.

Beware Of The Butter Boat

Why no, Regina, Cady lied to you: Butter is not a carb; butter is a fat. Healthy fats are great in moderation, but if the stuff is making a generous appearance in one dish after another on your Thanksgiving dinner table, then you might have a little trouble falling asleep later that night, Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation, tells Elite Daily in an email.

According to the AARP, any foods that contain a lot of fat usually require a lot of time and energy for your body to digest properly. And while some families eat Thanksgiving dinner early in the afternoon, if your squad starts passing the turkey and mashed potatoes around in the evening, then your stomach won't have as much time to break down a ton of fat on top of everything else you're eating. A full belly can lead to uncomfortable digestion, making it hard to rest.