7 Bedtime Snacks to Help you Sleep
To eat or not to eat at bedtime, that is the big question. The debate on whether you should or shouldn't eat before you sleep seems to centre mostly on the chances of gaining weight in your sleep if you eat too heavy a snack before bedtime, but the opinions vary.
Some experts believe you shouldn't eat for a few hours before bed whereas others think that healthy bedtime snacks are fine and could actually promote healthy weight loss as well as improve your sleep quality.
We decided to take a look into this controversial topic and find out what you should and shouldn't eat before bed, as well as who shouldn't snack at bedtime, and when the best time to stop eating is. To find out more about healthy bedtime snacks and how a snack may or may not help you sleep, keep reading now.
Should you have a bedtime snack?
So, should you have a bedtime snack?
The debate is endless when it comes to this question. Experts on both sides of the debate have opinions, and evidence can back these up too! The main reason that people do not eat before bed is that the body's metabolism slows down around bedtime. This means that there is a chance that the calories you consume close to bedtime will not be burned off effectively leading to weight gain. However, there is evidence to suggest that our body's metabolic rate doesn't slow as much as previously thought and is actually at a similar rate as during the day. This means that the food you eat before bed may actually be burned off just as effectively.
Though there is evidence that calories eaten late at night are more likely to be stored as fat, it appears that the real issue with eating late at night is the number of calories you eat and not whether your body will burn them off. When eating late at night, the likelihood is that you will push your caloric intake over what is necessary for the day, leading to weight gain due, not to a slow metabolic rate at night, but because you're consuming too many calories.
There is also some evidence that those who eat more frequent late-night snacks are more likely to build poor eating habits generally. This is because the bedtime snacks in question constitute an 'extra meal' of sorts which increases caloric intake causing weight gain.
If you are hungry before bedtime, it appears that eating can be a good thing, provided you eat the right things. It is more about what you're eating, rather than when you're eating.
Why do we get hungry before we fall asleep?
Not everyone gets hungry before bed but there are some people who do. There are a few different reasons for this.
Firstly, those who experience high levels of stress are more likely to get hungry around bedtime. This is because the hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases in the body in the evening when stressed, causing you to reach out for a snack.
People who don't eat enough during the day may also feel that they are more hungry late at night. This is likely to create an unhealthy cycle of eating in the evenings that then leaves you too full to eat on a morning, pushing your eating schedule later and later. If you find you eat more late a night, try cutting back on bedtime snacks and eat a healthier and more filling breakfast.
When should you not eat before bed?
As well as there being people who are more likely to get hungry closer to bedtime, there are also some people who should totally avoid eating close to sleep.
Those who suffer from acid reflux - a condition where gastric acid splashes back up the throat causing discomfort - should avoid eating before bedtime. This is because lying down can worsen the effects of acid reflux and eating closer to bedtime can cause a surge of symptoms.
When should you stop eating before bed?
So, when do experts suggest you stop eating before bedtime?
Most suggest that stopping around 3 hours before you intend to sleep can help the body to properly digest any food you have eaten and help you to avoid discomfort, like that caused by acid reflux. It also gives your body the chance to burn off calories effectively.
But while many experts agree on stopping before bedtime, some experts say there are certain bedtime snacks that can actually promote sleep and offer better sleep quality. There are two sides to this debate and both have evidence-backed pros. To find out more about the pros and cons of eating a healthy bedtime snack, check out the next section.
Pros and cons of having healthy bedtime snacks
With all of the debate surrounding this controversial topic, it is quite difficult to know where everyone stands on whether or not a bedtime snack can be healthy. Below we have summarised the pros and cons of eating healthy late-night snacks so that you can make a decision for yourself on whether or not to cut out your snacking.
Pros of healthy snacking before bed
The pros of eating a healthy snack before bed mainly centre on the ability of some snacks to give you a good night's sleep. There are some foods that can help to promote more restful sleep and can help you fall asleep faster and get better sleep when you do.
There is also evidence to suggest that eating later can help to promote healthy weight loss and that some snacks are actually good for supporting your body through sleep. The body undergoes lots of repair and restoration in sleep and there are some food groups that are particularly useful for these processes.
Finally, eating late at night, and eating a healthy snack late at night, can help to curb cravings of fatty and sugary foods which will interrupt sleep and could cause weight gain.
Cons of healthy snacking before bed
While healthy snacking can be good for you before bed, it can be bad for some people. For some people, eating anything before bed can leave them feeling sick and nauseous and can lead to bouts of acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux frequently, you should avoid eating before you go to sleep.
As well as the potential for negative side effects, the body does slow down before bed. This means that the digestive system slows too, causing the body to take longer to digest food and, if snacking unhealthily, causing the potential for weight gain.
Eating a heavy meal before bed can also distract the body from sleep as it focuses its attention on digesting what you have just eaten. This can effectively wake the body back up and can make falling asleep more difficult.
What not to eat before bed
So, what shouldn't you eat before bed?
Whether you are Team Healthy Snacks Before Bed or Team No Food Before Sleep, there are quite a few snacks you should definitely avoid before bed. We've listed them below for you to check out.
Full of saturated fats and added sugars, ice cream is a terrible snacking option before bed. The sugars and fats in this delicious dairy product can trigger sugar cravings which can, in turn, lead to overeating.
Snacking on a product like this can also lead to an increase in blood sugar levels which can wake you back up. High blood sugar levels make falling asleep more difficult and can increase the number of times you wake up in the night.
While dark chocolate may be a safe option, milk and white chocolate are full of added sugars that can leave you feeling more awake when you're trying to get some sleep. Chocolate is also a source of caffeine, which is a stimulant and can wake the body up before sleep. You should avoid any caffeinated products before bed so as not to mess with your sleep quality.
Alcohol, though it makes you feel sleepy, is actually very bad for good sleep. Alcohol messes with REM sleep, which is the deepest kind of sleep and means you wake up feeling unrested. The sedative feeling that creeps in when you drink a glass of wine wears off the minute that alcohol is metabolised which is why a 'night cap' might not be conducive to restful sleep.
Usually high in salt, high in saturated and unhealthy fats, and full of empty calories, this common nighttime snack is actually pretty terrible for sleep. Not only are you eating calories with very little nutrient content, but you're also potentially waking your body back up before sleep.
Fried food is heavy and full of fats which are much harder to digest than carbs and protein. This shifts the body's attention from sleep to the digestion of these fatty foods. Eating fried foods before bed can also lead to acid reflux and the discomfort associated with this.
7 best bedtime snacks
The best bedtime snacks generally have one thing in common, they can help you to sleep better. All have different minerals and vitamins that can be used by the body to fuel better sleep quality and are generally low in saturated fats and added sugars.
We've listed the best bedtime snacks you can pick below!
A low-calorie snack option for the evening, roasted chickpeas are high in protein and fibre as well as many vitamins and minerals. These macronutrients are helpful to the body during sleep and can help support the healing and repair work that goes on during sleep.
Dairy products contain melatonin which improves your sleep quality, making a yoghurt a great option for a bedtime snack. Opt for Greek yoghurt over yoghurts that contain lots of added sugar. A Greek yoghurt is a good option for healthy fats too.
Low sugar cereal with low-fat milk
Cereal is usually made from whole grains which are great for sleep. High in fibre and carbohydrates, this option is doubly good for sleep. With the addition of low-fat milk, you get a healthy dose of tryptophan which is an amino acid that produces serotonin in the body. This serotonin is then converted to melatonin and can help to support healthy sleep patterns.
Nuts are a great source of protein and are also high in magnesium. Magnesium is frequently used as a supplement to help with disrupted sleep. Ensure that nuts you choose to eat before bed are low in sodium as salt can interrupt sleep too.
At the top of every list of the best bedtime snacks, tart cherries are rich in melatonin which is really helpful for a good nights sleep. Make sure you choose tart cherry juice without added sugar to avoid spiking your blood sugar levels before bed.
Banana and almond butter
Protein powder, usually used post-workout, can support the muscle repair that happens during sleep. When you make your smoothie with milk, you also add tryptophan which can promote sleep!
Bedtime snacking is a pretty controversial topic. While some say it should be avoided, others think it can help with healthy weight loss and better sleep. We think it's mostly about what you're eating rather than when you're eating it!
Why not try one of these bedtime snacks tonight and see if it helps your sleep!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good snacks before bed?
There are a number of really great bedtime snacks that can help to promote better sleep quality and may support the body in the reset and repair work it does during sleep. Good bedtime snacks include:
- Roasted chickpeas for their protein and fibre
- Tart cherries for their high levels of melatonin
- Almond and walnuts for their magnesium content
- Yoghurts for their melatonin levels
What is the healthiest food to eat before bed?
The healthiest foods to eat before bed tend to be those that are low in saturated fats and added sugars and higher in protein, fibre, and healthy fats. The foods you eat could also contain sleep-promoting vitamins and minerals, like melatonin and magnesium. Opting to eat tart cherries, low sugar cereal and nuts with high magnesium levels may help you to sleep better.
What's a healthy late-night snack?
Healthy late-night snacks include foods that are high in fibre and protein, as well as healthy fats and sleep-promoting compounds like melatonin and serotonin. You can find sleep-promoting compounds and minerals in foods like dairy products, tart cherries, some nuts, goji berries, and other fruits. Great choices include pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, as well as bananas and kiwis.
Is it OK to have a bedtime snack?
It is okay to have a bedtime snack provided that you are opting for healthier snacking choices. Look out for foods that can help to promote better sleep, like those that are high in proteins, healthy fats and fibre as well as minerals and compounds like magnesium and melatonin. Some people should avoid bedtime snacks, including those who experience acid reflux and those who find it difficult to eat in the morning.