Like many of us, a little bedtime snack is something you look forward to. Perhaps it’s even a bedtime routine. After a long day, your stomach is rumbling a bit as you approach the finish line so you head to the fridge.
But what if that simple snack wasn’t so innocent after all and it is actually the reason you’re not getting a good night’s sleep? Chances are, you’re reaching for the wrong thing.
The good news is there are plenty of great bedtime snacks that promote healthy sleep and keep the hunger pangs at bay.
Keep reading to learn what you should (and absolutely should not) eat before bed.
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Is It OK to Snack Before Bedtime?
According to sleep expert, Dr. Michael J. Breus:
“You don’t want to go to bed full, but you also don’t want to go to bed hungry.”
In this sense, if you’re feeling peckish before heading off to bed, it’s a smart idea to eat a little snack. However, you don’t want to sit down for a full dinner right before hitting the hay.
As Amy Shapiro, nutritionist and founder of Real Nutrition, puts it:
“I recommend eating dinner at least two hours before bed and then, depending on the person, a small snack may be helpful in aiding sleep. Usually, carbs or foods containing some carbs (think warm milk, fruit, or crackers) can help to drift you off to sleep, as the sugars hit the serotonin in the brain and can aid us to sleep. Alternatively, sugary snacks like candy, dried fruit, or juice can disrupt sleep, as they may cause a sugar crash that can wake you up in the middle of the night.”
Also, consider healthy foods that contain certain vitamins and minerals like tryptophan, magnesium, calcium and B6 as these are shown to promote healthy sleep. Eating foods rich in these vitamins and minerals at the right time can tip the sleep scale in your favor.
8 Bedtime Snack Ideas To Ensure Restful Sleep
Evening snack time can be a problem if you make the wrong choices.
However, if you follow these snack tips, you’ll find yourself falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
Read on to learn about eight bedtime snack ideas to promote a good night’s sleep.
1. Avoid sugary snacks because they wake you up later
Sugar is the sneaky little devil that seems to pop up in even the most unsuspecting of places. Not only does it spike your blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain, but sugar also causes all sorts of sleep problems.
It’s clear that sugar intake is associated with less restorative and lighter sleep with more arousals. There’s no question among medical experts that poor sleep quality is directly related to higher sugar intake.
With that being said, maybe you’re really craving a sweet snack. Opt for something healthy, like fruit, that will not only help fill you up and promote melatonin production but will put that sweet tooth to bed.
2. Choose complex carbohydrates to reduce inflammation
If you’re like most people, you love carbs and that’s perfectly fine — studies show healthy carbs are actually important for promoting proper hormone balance for sleep.
The same studies show that not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbs can help you sleep, but simple, fast-digesting carbs stimulate inflammatory responses in your gut, affect hormones, and may induce insomnia.
So, when it comes to bedtime snacking, choose the kind of carb that will support your sleep, not worsen it.
Choose a complex carbohydrate like oatmeal, pumpernickel crackers, 100% whole wheat bread/whole wheat crackers, brown rice cracker treats, or quinoa as opposed to a simple carbohydrate like potato chips, sweetened cereals, cookies, candy, or soda.
Bonus! Complex carbs can also help with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.
3. Pick foods high in tryptophan to promote sleep hormones
The word ‘tryptophan’ may ring a bell around Thanksgiving or the holidays as many people saddle up to the family table and eat a huge amount of turkey then fall asleep shortly thereafter.
The amino acid tryptophan, when ingested, turns into serotonin and then converted into the sleep promoting hormone melatonin, inducing sleepiness. Turkey is a great source of it.
While it’s not recommended that you eat a huge turkey as a bedtime snack, there are other better bedtime snack options that are a source of tryptophan.
Try some of these slumber foods:
- Dairy products, like skim milk, low-fat yogurt, yoghurt bites, a slice of cheese, or cottage cheese
- Handful of nuts or seeds, like almonds, walnuts, peanuts/peanut butter, cashew, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds
- Fruits, like apples, bananas, peaches, avocados
- Chickpea products, like hummus
Some of these are sleep superfoods and check lots of boxes as healthy bedtime snack options.
4. Look for snacks high in melatonin to induce sleepiness
That old saying that a warm glass of milk or plain yoghurt before bed can help you fall asleep is true.
Milk is a well-known source of calcium but also a great source of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Your body produces this hormone naturally as the sun goes down to help ease you into sleep.
But what if you could give it a helping hand?
Studies show that you can consume foods high in melatonin to enjoy the benefits of this sleepy-time hormone.
Besides low-fat milk, some other bedtime snack options that are high in naturally occurring melatonin include:
- Sour/Tart Cherries
- Walnuts and peanuts
- Sunflower seeds
Add some of these melatonin-boosting foods to your bedtime snack choices to help support your efforts to get more restful sleep.
5. Add snacks with high dietary fiber to sleep longer
Dietary fiber is one of the building blocks for a healthy diet.
Researchers have found a clear link between eating a healthy diet rich in dietary fiber and the duration of your sleep. Good eaters slept normally while bad eaters under or overslept.
Snacking on foods high in dietary fiber can be a good choice. These healthy snacks include things like:
- Fruits, like raspberries, pears, apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries
- Vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, sweetcorn
- Nuts like almonds/almond butter, pistachios, pecans
- Air-popped popcorn
- Instant oatmeal
Kill two birds with one stone — improve your overall health and sleep better with a snack high in dietary fiber.
6. Cut out snacks with caffeine
This may seem like an obvious one since caffeine is a well-known stimulant. Avoiding coffee, tea, and energy drinks because of their high caffeine content is a no-brainer.
But did you know certain types of food — sodas, chocolate, some protein/snack bars, coffee ice cream — contain trace amounts of caffeine? Don’t be fooled by decaffeinated drinks either – some contain as much as 8-14 milligrams of caffeine.
The most surprising hidden caffeine comes in some medications. Bayer Back & Body packs 32.5 grams of caffeine, Midol Menstrual Maximum Strength Caplets come in at 60 milligrams and Excedrin Migraine at a whopping 65 milligrams — that’s more than a shot of espresso!
Skip these sneaky foods and drinks if you want to sleep better at night.
7. Keep it light as heavy meal digestion keeps you awake
Avoiding full meals right before bedtime is widely-accepted as a good sleep hygiene behavior.
Time your meals 3-4 hours before bedtime.
Eating a healthy meal at dinner and regular meals throughout the day is important, not only for your overall health, but also for your sleep quality.
Making good dinner choices can also help stave off late-night hunger, eliminating the need for those extra calories altogether.
But what about a light snack after dinner if you’re still peckish?
Studies show that a large meal near bedtime shows high potential for night time awakenings and poor sleep quality. Instead, keep your bedtime snacks light, around 100-300 calories.
Luckily, there are lots of low-calorie bedtime snacks that don’t break the calorie bank and can even help you drift off so you can wake up refreshed and ready for a nutritious breakfast.
8. Add in a little CBD
With CBD (cannabidiol derived from the hemp plant) becoming more and more mainstream, tons of people swear by it as an effective natural sleep aid.
Doctors and researchers are here to provide evidence that CBD use not only helps decrease anxiety but also improves sleep scores.
In a recent study, nearly 67% of participants who took CBD had improved sleep scores within the first month and anxiety scores decreased in 80% of participants.
CBD comes in many forms, such as oils, foods and drinks. Try CBD Gummies or a drop of CBD oil as a quick, easy bedtime snack.
The Bottom Line…
Step away from the cookies!
Now you have the knowledge to choose the best late night snack to help you get some good shuteye. You can also navigate away from the snacks that may be hindering your sleep.
Maybe some of these already make the list of your favorite foods.
Remember, bedtime snacking isn’t necessarily bad and can in fact aid your sleep process if you make a good choice.
Want something to quickly pop in your mouth so you can drift off in minutes? Try CBD gummies.
Welcome to Snoozerville! I’m Dr. Alex Hartley, your guide to the world of restful sleep. With a Ph.D. in Sleep Science and years of experience as a sleep therapist, I’ve dedicated my life to understanding and improving sleep quality. My passion lies in uncovering the mysteries of sleep and sharing practical, science-backed advice to help you achieve the best rest possible. Beyond my academic pursuits, I’m an advocate for mindfulness and relaxation techniques, which I incorporate into my daily routine. At Snoozerville, I aim to transform your nights, combining the latest research with easy-to-implement tips. Whether you’re a chronic insomniac or just looking to improve your sleep hygiene, join me on this journey towards peaceful, rejuvenating sleep.