Spicy Foods Pack Nasty Punch at Bedtime

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    Spicy foods could be keeping you up at night -- and not because of indigestion.

    Like most North Texans, Jackie Whyte loves spicy food.

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    "I like any kind of spicy food, the hotter the better," she said.

    But she also pays the price at bedtime.

    "You just wake up hurting," Whyte said.

    Dr. Elizabeth Ostrcil at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas said she sees sleep-deprived, spicy-food-loving patients all the time.

    "This is a large part of my practice," Ostrcil said.

    Researchers in Australia studied a small group of men who ate Tabasco and mustard at bedtime. They found it took the men longer to fall asleep. When they did nod off, they spent less time in the deeper stages of sleep.

    Ostrcil said the most obvious reason spicy food can affect sleep patterns is acid reflux. Spicy foods also tend to be high in fat.

    "Whenever you eat high-fat meals, that delays the stomach from digesting the food and delays the stomach emptying, so food sticks around in the stomach longer, also contributing to acid reflux," she said.

    Spicy foods may also affect body temperature.

    "Spicy foods are thought to raise body temperatures, and this causes more energy expenditure that's devoted to helping digest these foods instead of sleeping and your body resting," Ostrcil said. 

    Ostrcil said she advises patients to avoid spicy foods three to four hours before bedtime.  She said it's also important not to overeat.