The claim: A spicy meal before bed can disrupt sleep.
The facts: an old wives’ tale has it that a little kick to the palate before bed can lead to fitful sleep, if not nightmares.
Well, the advice is a good one.
Research over the years has shown that a spicy meal at night can lead to poor sleep. The most direct study to show this was published in the International Journal of Psychophsiology by a team of Australian researchers. The scientists recruited a group of young, healthy men and had them consume meals that contained Tabasco sauce and mustard shortly before they turned in on some evenings and non-spicy control meals on other evenings.
On the nights that included spicy meals there were marked changes in the subjects sleep patterns. They spent less time n both the light phase of sleep known as Stage 2 and the deep, slow-wave Stages 3 and 4 sleep. All of which meant that the subjects experienced less sleep overall and took longer to drift off.
In accounting for the effect, an obvious possibility is indigestion. The scientist also noted that after eating the spicy meals, the subjects’ body temperatures rose during their first sleep cycles, which has been linked in other studies to poorer sleep quality.
The bottom line: A spicy meal before bed can impair sleep .
- The New York Times