No. Midnight Snacks Aren't Your Sleep's Enemy. Here's How To Do It Right
Eating the right foods can actually promote better sleep.
Mercey LivingstonCNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
We've all heard that eating before bed isn't the best idea. But what should you do if you wake up in the middle of the night with a growling stomach, or you can't fall asleep because you were already hungry before bed? Whatever the reason for snacking, some bedtime snacks are healthier than others.
"Bedtime snacks can be healthy and can help you
better," says Tony Castillo, a registered dietician and performance dietician at Nutrition for Performance. He says people who work out regularly and are active in particular can benefit, since you can add in nutrients that can help muscles repair and recover while you sleep.
But there are some foods you may want to avoid eating before bed because they may disrupt your sleep. You'll want to avoid food that contains lots of sugar and processed carbs, since those can work against helping you get a good night's sleep. "The fast-digesting carbs could cause a boost of energy," says Castillo.
Something else you'll want to avoid before bed? Spicy foods, since those can cause acid reflux, and no one wants to wake up to digestive issues throughout the night. Another common heartburn trigger is chocolate, because it's high in fat and contains other ingredients that can mess with digestion at night.
"I recommend a slow-digesting protein and high-fiber carbohydrate," Castillo says. "You want the slow-digesting protein to keep the muscle-building switch on while you sleep. You want a high-fiber carb because a fast-digesting carb can cause a blood sugar spike and keep you awake."
Slow-digesting and high fiber carbs are ones that tend to be easier on your blood sugar, helping avoid spikes or subsequent crashes. Examples of slow-digesting carbs are whole grains, oats, brown rice, fruits and veggies. Slow-digesting proteins include casein, which is found in dairy, such as yogurt and cheese, and is available as a protein powder. Peanut butter is also useful to eat before bed because it contains tryptophan, which helps your brain and muscles relax.
Healthy bedtime snack examples:
Peanut butter and whole grain/high fiber bread
Greek yogurt and berries
Almond butter and fruit
Cheese and fruit
Foods that help you sleep
Certain specific foods can promote better sleep, for reasons other than helping you feel full. Certain foods naturally contain nutrients that promote sleep like melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
Foods that can help you sleep:
Almonds: They contain melatonin and magnesium, which both can help you relax and promote better sleep.
Besides snacking on healthy and nighttime-appropriate foods, you should also consider timing your snacks in a way that does not interfere with sleep. This can vary from person to person, but typically you will want to avoid eating immediately before falling asleep.
"There are some individuals that can eat something right before bed and have no issues. Others may have to have a cutoff time of two hours [before bed] because eating the food may cause acid reflux," Castillo says. It may take some trial and error, but giving yourself room to digest before bed can help prevent problems.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.