Every once in a while, your hunger creeps up on you shortly before you plan on going to sleep. There’s nothing wrong with satisfying that hunger, as long as you’re filling your belly with sustenance over snack food. Choosing a low-calorie option before you go to bed can be the difference between a restful sleep, and an uncomfortable night full of tossing and turning.
What To Eat Before Bed
The secret is to find tasty, minimally processed foods that ease your cravings without disrupting your sleep (and calorie intake for the day). Below are some great go-to food options to eat before bed, and some can even induce sleepiness!
Bananas With Almond Butter
Pairing these nutrient-rich foods together before bed is not only delicious, but it’s helpful for a good night’s rest too. Bananas contain a significant amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in your body which is partially converted to melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, and let’s the body know when it’s time to wind down for bed.
In a study published by the National Institute of Health, researchers found that melatonin levels in healthy males rose four times in just 2 hours after ingesting 2 bananas.
Almonds also contain melatonin, along with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and magnesium. Magnesium also plays a role in your sleep-wake cycle, and has been shown to help individuals receive more restful sleep.
Tart cherries (no cherry sundaes don’t count) are other great fruits to snack on before bed because they taste great, work well in juice form, and contain anti-inflammatory benefits that help with conditions like arthritis and heart disease.
Some studies have linked them to better sleep, as they contain B-2 which supports the levels of tryptophan in your blood, an amino acid used to produce melatonin.
This sweet tropical fruit can spice up any fruit salad, but it’s also a low-calorie pre-bedtime snack that’s loaded with vitamins of fiber. In fact, just two of these suckers contain 4.2 grams of fiber, 213% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake, and only 84 calories.
Kiwis were put to the real test in order to see how well they improved sleep. In one study, subjects were asked to eat 2 kiwis every night one hour before bed, and track their results with a sleep diary and sleep tracking watch. A month into the study, time spent awake before bed decreased by 35%, and time spent asleep throughout the night increased by 15%.
Store bought trail mix, or your own trail mix creation containing nuts, dried fruits, and seeds can be a filling, sleep-inducing snack before bed if you add the right ingredients. Foods including pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, goji berries, and dried cranberries contain notable amounts of melatonin, while pumpkin seeds and almonds contain sleep inducing magnesium and tryptophan.
It’s important to pre-portion serving sizes so you don’t go overboard with the trail mix, which can be really calorie-dense if you overdo it. A ¼ cup of trail mix should satisfy your hunger before bed, without pushing you over your calorie-intake for the day.
You’re probably familiar with calcium and its bone-strengthening benefits, but believe it or not, the mineral also plays a part in improving the quality of your sleep. We’ve mentioned tryptophan and how it supports the production of melatonin in your body, but that process isn’t possible without calcium.
Greek yogurt happens to be an excellent source of calcium. Additionally, it contains casein, a protein that helps ease hunger in the morning so you don’t over eat.
Yes you read that correct — we want you to eat hot cereal. Well, it’s completely up to you. But the benefits of eating hot cereal before bed might surprise you.
Whole grain cereals and oatmeal contain melatonin and are great sources of fiber. Warm milk also contains melatonin, plus that important amino acid tryptophan we keep mentioning which can be converted into melatonin. Try adding some of the fruit we mentioned above and you have yourself a healthy, sleep inducing snack before bed.
What NOT To Eat Before Bed
Now let’s discuss the types of food you should stay away from close to bedtime if you’re looking to get a good night sleep.
We know, this one tugs at your heart-strings a bit, especially if you have a pesky sweet tooth. However, foods high in sugar like chocolate, cookies, cake, or ice cream can be real disruptive to the quality of your sleep. A study done in 2016 found that those who consumed high amounts of sugars and fats before bed experienced less slow wave sleep (deep sleep), and woke up more often throughout the night.
When you’re trying to fall asleep at a reasonable hour and receive a full night’s rest, it’s important to feel relaxed and comfortable before bed. After eating spicy food, however, your heart rate increases, your body temperature rises, and you’re more ready for a tall glass of water than you are for bed. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn, which obviously puts a damper on the whole “good night’s rest” thing.
It’s the perfect post-athletic sporting event or lazy order-in dinner, but it should be avoided at all costs before bed. You have two things working against you with pizza; the cheese and the tomato sauce. Cheese is high in fat, and tomato sauce is notoriously acidic. Together, it makes for a real bad recipe for your quality of sleep.
If you want to have something like a hamburger or juicy steak before bed, you should think again. Fatty meats like hamburgers can cause acid-reflux or heartburn, and red meat in general is hard on your body’s digestive system before bed.
You might be scratching your head at this one, but it’s true for some people. Celery is about 95% water and a natural diuretic. As a result, it may disrupt your sleep by causing you to make some extra trips to the bathroom throughout the night.
How Long Should You Eat Before Bed?
Many people are under the impression that you shouldn’t eat any later than 7 p.m., which some dietitians have recommended. However, that can be difficult for people on different schedules or night owls who stay up late and wake up early. So as a general rule of thumb, try not to eat dinner or any big meals 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Another helpful tip — experts have suggested that you make lunch the biggest meal of your day so you don’t overeat around dinner or bedtime.