Many people fear bedtime snacks, or even eating past 8PM because they think it will lead to weight gain. People gain weight from the types of foods or the portions they are eating, and not from when they are eating them. If you are hungry before bed, you should have a snack. For people who wake up to snack during the night, a bedtime snack is especially beneficial. Not snacking before bed, and going to bed hungry, can have negative impacts on your sleep quality. What you choose to eat before bed can lead to a restful night’s sleep or a restless night’s sleep.
Foods to avoid eating or drinking before bed
Caffeine. Caffeine including coffee, soda, tea, energy drinks and dark chocolate can all impact sleep quality. Research shows that having caffeine even 6 hours prior to going to sleep can have negative impacts on sleep.
Alcohol. While alcohol might help you feel relaxed and fall asleep, research shows that it disrupts REM sleep. You may find yourself up during the night, or not feeling rested in the morning because you do not get the same quality sleep when drinking alcohol before bed.
Spicy or acidic foods. Spicy or acidic foods lead to indigestion and acid reflux. Acid reflux is even worse when lying down after eating. This combination can lead to an uncomfortable sleepless night.
High fat foods. Foods high in fat including cakes, donuts, ice cream sundaes, fried foods and pizza take longer to digest, and can also trigger indigestion. If your body is working hard to digest, it will be harder to relax and fall asleep.
Bedtime snack recommendations
*A bedtime snack should be about 200 calories*
Whole grain cereal and milk. Carbohydrates paired with a protein or a fat will help keep you feeling full during the night and keep your blood sugar levels stable. However, pay attention to portion sizes, and remember that this is a snack and not a meal.
Read the nutrition facts label and choose whole grain cereals that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving while avoiding sugary cereals. The nutrition facts label is also beneficial to help you choose milks that do not contain any added sugar.
Tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice contains sleep promoting melatonin, and studies have shown it to improve sleep quality. Tart cherries also contain anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that can also aid with sleep quality. Therefore, drinking a glass of tart cherry juice before bed, might help with sleep.
Bananas. Bananas are a good source of both magnesium and potassium. Magnesium and potassium have been shown to be natural muscle relaxers, which is beneficial before bed.
Almonds. Almonds are also a good source of magnesium, and therefore aid with muscle relaxation. Almonds have also been shown to be heart healthy, and the protein content will help stabilize blood sugar levels through the night. However, almonds are high in calories, so remember that one ounce of almonds is a portion.
I recommend trying a combination of carbohydrates and protein in your bedtime snack. This is because carbohydrates give your body steady energy while you sleep, and protein helps stabilize blood sugar and keeps you feeling full until morning.
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.
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