5 sleep stealers that can keep you tossing and turning

We all know better than to give in to that late afternoon latté. What seemed (and smelled) like a great idea at 5 o’clock can come back to haunt you at midnight.

Caffeine takes a while to work through your system, with a “half-life” of close to six hours. That means by downing that 200 mg shot at 6 p.m., you’ll still have half that amount of caffeine circulating, and keeping you awake, at midnight.

But there are other, more sneaky ways your shut-eye can be messed with. Check out these five sleep stealers before you raid the fridge and turn on the Late Show tonight:

  • Dark chocolate: All of the health findings about chocolate seem to make it a late-night snack lover’s dream come true. But keep this health food (and yes, it really it!) reserved for daylight hours. Chocolate contains two big stimulants, caffeine and theobromine. We all know what the first one is, but the second is an alkaloid found in cocoa, tea and cola nuts that can keep you awake well past bedtime – and possibly even eating more chocolate!
  • The “nightcap”: Sure, wine, beer and other spirits can make you feel relaxed, even drowsy. But it’s a fake kind of drowsiness, one that can send you to dreamland at first, then disrupt your last hours of sleep, so you wake even more tired than when you went to bed.
  • Leftover temptations: So you had a great dinner of mac and cheese, salmon burgers or chili. And those leftovers look mighty good right now that the kitchen is clean and a before-bed snack is calling. But don’t give your body such a big job so close to bedtime. Putting your digestive system into overdrive does nothing to help you get some decent shuteye.
  • Decaf coffee: It may say “decaf” but that doesn’t mean that brew has zero caffeine. Consumer Reports found that the typical “decaf” contains up to 12 mg of caffeine, but some, like the Dunkin Donuts version they tested, had over 32 mg. For comparison, your “regular” 8-ounce cup of java has around 95 to 115 mg of caffeine. So if you’re sensitive to the effects of caffeine, that so-called decaf could be enough to keep you up at night.
  • The nightmare on Candy Street: Research has found that, yes, consuming candy, ice cream and cake before bed can really give you nightmares. Is it all that sugar, or the fact that we’re subconsciously feeling guilty about such indulgences? Whatever the cause, having bad dreams is a surefire way to wake up looking and feeling like a zombie.

You can thank me in the morning.

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