You often hear that eating after 7 p.m. might keep you up at night, diminish your sleep quality, or cause you to gain weight. The truth of the matter is that some foods can actually help you sleep better, so you may benefit from a bedtime snack routine if you have trouble falling or staying asleep each night. Here’s a look at the best and worst food choices before bed to help you get the relaxing, replenishing sleep you need to stay healthy.
What to Eat
• Nuts – A handful of nuts is a great snack to enjoy any time of day thanks to the good fats and protein they contain. At nighttime, they are particularly beneficial because of their magnesium content, which promotes muscle relaxation and better sleep.
• Carb-heavy snacks – While crackers or cookies might not be great choices for an afternoon pick-me-up, they can be perfect for an evening snack. Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger the release of insulin and increase tryptophan in the body, causing you to get sleepy just in time for bed.
• Herbal tea – You will want to steer clear of the caffeinated stuff, but a hot cup of herbal tea can give you a dose of relaxation. Teas containing chamomile are an excellent choice, since this flower is a natural sleep aid.
• Milk – There is a good reason moms recommend a cup of warm milk for kids who can’t sleep. Dairy products are high in calcium and tryptophan, which are both known to induce sleep.
What to Avoid
• Large late night meals – If you overeat late at night, you may feel quite tired, but the quality of your sleep will not be great. Eating a smaller but filling dinner earlier in the evening and having a small snack before bed will let you get much sounder sleep.
• Spicy foods – Spicy foods can irritate the stomach and trigger heartburn, which will only get worse when you lie down. If you love hot foods, save them for earlier in the day and keep an antacid handy to resolve any discomfort.
• Cheese – While milk and yogurt are good snack choices in the evening, cheese is not ideal, because it contains tyramine, an amino acid that causes the body to release stimulant hormones in the brain. Pork, chocolate, and potatoes are also rich in this amino acid.
• Alcohol – It may be tempting to reach for a shot of whiskey or glass of wine before dosing off, but alcohol is dehydrating and causes a drop in blood sugar, so you may wake up frequently if you have enjoyed a night cap.
When you know which foods to reach for to promote better sleep, midnight snacking can be a healthy part of your daily routine. Just remember that calories still count just before bed, so you will still want to keep your portions small.