Almost everyone loves to grab a snack before they go to sleep. But what you choose to eat could determine whether or not you fall asleep right away.
Before you begin nighttime noshing, ask yourself:
- What’s your motivation?
- Are you bored? Stuffing emotions? Munching while watching TV?
- Or, are you really hungry, and if so, how hungry?
If you’re eating just to eat – or to cure boredom or make you feel better – you might want to think twice before indulging.
But if you’re really running on empty, opt for snacks that won’t add extra pounds or result in a restless night.
Large portions and high fat foods (like French fries) interfere with falling asleep. Spicy foods slow down digestion. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and have a relaxing effect at first, then cause you to wake up because it interferes with deep sleep and interrupts the sleep cycle. The stimulant powers of caffeine, found in coffee, tea or chocolate, take several hours to wear off. Even decaf has some caffeine. High-sugar foods and overeating can also interfere with your ability to sleep.
Not all bedtime snacks are bad for you. Some can help you take in more nutrients that you still need for the day. Going to bed hungry can actually keep you awake.
If you’re considering a bed time snack, try incorporating foods that help boost your levels of serotonin, the calming and “feel good” hormone. You could consider:
- Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios
- Seeds, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
- Lean protein, such as chicken, fish and low-fat cheese
Choose a small snack with protein and carbohydrates – these types of foods either contain or help create an amino acid called tryptophan that can cause sleepiness.
Try these protein and carbohydrate combinations:
- Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk
- Peanut butter on whole-grain toast
- Low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers
- One ounce of turkey or chicken on a slice of whole grain bread
Other snack options could include:
- Bananas and other foods high in potassium, which helps you to stay asleep
Foods high in calcium also contain certain sleep-causing hormones, such as tryptophan and melatonin. So don’t feel bad if you grab a snack that consists of:
- A container of low-fat yogurt
- A cup of low-fat milk
- A slice of low-fat cheese, such as mozzarella.
Good snacking and good night!