Late night snack? Midnight feast? Here are some acceptable foods to eat before bed that won’t disturb your sleep pattern.
We all have our different dietary routines and, more often than not, we are advised to eat well before bedtime to allow our bodies to digest the evening meal effectively and promote good sleep. But if, like me, you are starting to feel a pang of hunger by the time sleep comes around, this formula doesn’t work as that feeling will only grow throughout the night and may cause broken sleep. Some of us like a little snack before bed whilst winding down in the evening, and others would completely avoid this for fear of overeating or snacking on naughty items like chocolate or ice cream, etc. where the sugar content will work its magic and leave you wide eyed and tossing and turning. The last thing we want to do is eat something that causes a night of insomnia, so what foods can we eat later on in the day that can actually induce sleep as opposed to disrupting it?
Let’s think satisfying but nutrient-dense to appease our cravings…
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced within the body and one of its effects is to aid with sleep. Cherries are rich in melatonin and so are conducive to helping us get to, and stay, asleep at night. Studies have shown that a glass of tart cherry juice can be more effective than other products containing melatonin or valerian at combating insomnia. And there’s the obvious big plus with eating cherries; they’re healthy! You don’t need to juice them for them to work, eating them whole is just as effective.
Another fruit on the list of late night acceptable snacks, the kiwi. Get under the down comforter with this sleep-inducing food from Down Under. Participants who consumed two kiwifruits 1 hour before bedtime nightly for 4 weeks fell asleep 35 percent faster than those who didn’t eat the New Zealand fruit, a study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found. Besides being rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, and vitamins C and E, it also contains a familiar hormone, serotonin. This sleep hormone is related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and its low levels may cause insomnia. Similarly, kiwi is rich in folate, and insomnia is one of the health issues that are a symptom of folate deficiency.
Usually a fruit we would associate with exercise and providing energy, but in actual fact the potassium and magnesium content can serve to relax the muscles and encourage a sleep state. As well as relaxing us the magnesium can aid with the quality of sleep. A banana also contains tryptophan which works alongside serotonin and melatonin which are those hormones which induce sleep within the body.
Raw almonds are a great source of magnesium and calcium which both work to relax our muscles. Calcium also aids in the conversion of tryptophan into melatonin which also helps our sleep pattern.
Although it is something many of us avoid due to the excess being turned into and stored as fat, carbohydrates can act as a sleep aid. So if you haven’t indulged in too many during the day, or you are lucky enough to have a high metabolism a helping of carbs before bed can be a great way to induce a deep, healthy sleep. A lighter way to enjoy some carbohydrates comes in the form of a bowl of roasted chick peas. Take some cooked chickpeas and lightly coat in olive oil, then add your favourite herbs and spices, salt and pepper and roast in the oven until crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. These are a cosy, comforting, plant-based snack that should help you get that needed slumber due to their serotonin stimulative properties, tryptophan levels, and magnesium content.
Similar to the chick pea concept and the carbohydrate idea, a piece of toast before bed can also help induce sleep – but make sure it is whole grain and not slathered in butter! Top it with some almond butter for an added sleep aid or perhaps some avocado if you’re feeling savoury, and get some healthy fats on top.
This might not sound like your average ‘snack’ but whipping up some eggs before bed can be a great way to encourage the zzzs. Eggs are a great source of melatonin as well as L-ornithine which is an amino acid that also aids in the quality of our sleep. Throw in some melatonin containing vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli and give the sleep pattern an even bigger boost.
Snacking before bed is not necessarily a bad idea as we have generally been led to believe. It just depends on what we eat and how much of it. If you have trouble getting to sleep, and staying asleep then why not try some of the above and see if it works for you? Just keep it light, healthy, and of course tasty and make sure you avoid the sugar!