The foods and drinks we put into our bodies can play a large role in affecting our sleep, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Eating after dinner or before bed is typically a no-no for those looking to lose weight and enjoy a good night’s sleep. However, sometimes a small snack of around 200 calories is okay. Let’s start with what not to eat before bed.
Avoid foods or beverages containing caffeine such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Caffeine stimulates the body, the brain and nervous system, making it difficult to get to sleep.
While people often use alcohol to relax, once the alcohol is metabolized out of your body you’ll wake up, causing a restless and interrupted sleep. Dehydration caused by alcohol consumption may also wake you as your body craves water.
Sugar is also a stimulant to the body and does not promote sleep. In fact, sugar on its own too close to bedtime may cause you to wake up a couple hours later as your blood sugar levels drop.
Fat takes a long time to digest. If you want a restful sleep, avoid foods high in fat before bed as they interfere with your ability to sleep, and may lead to indigestion. The body can’t both digest and rest, so your digestion will be compromised along with your sleep.
Now let’s look at some healthy and sleep-supporting options for snacks you can enjoy before bedtime.
When to eat
If you eat dinner early (more than four hours before sleep) and feel hungry again closer to bedtime, a small snack is acceptable. Or, if you’re an athlete who works out later in the evening after dinner, then you want to make sure you have a proper recovery meal. However, you want to make sure that the foods and beverages you choose are going to help you with your goals.
What to snack on
To promote good sleep, focus on tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is the starting-point in the production of serotonin and melatonin, two key neurotransmitters that govern the body when it comes to sleep. Tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, milk, cottage cheese, chicken, eggs, red meat, soybeans, tofu and almonds.
Ensure your diet has enough protein, providing you with a base of all essential amino acids, including tryptophan. Also, for sleep purposes make sure you consume carbohydrates with your protein. This helps the tryptophan make its way to the brain more quickly by sending other amino acids into the muscles. This means there is less competition for transport, and you can enjoy the calming and sedative affects of this neurotransmitter.
Magnesium is a mineral associated with muscle and nervous system relaxation. Eating magnesium-rich foods before bed may also help calm your body and promote a more restful night’s sleep. Food rich in magnesium include nuts – especially almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts, wheat bran and germ, millet and tofu. One of the highest sources of magnesium is kelp, along with other seaweeds.
Pre-bedtime Snack Ideas
Mixing a protein source and carbohydrate source is your best bet for a snack before you hit the hay. It turns out there is some truth to the sedative effects of a glass of warm milk before bed, as milk contains tryptophan and carbohydrates, eliciting that calming effect on the brain.
Remember that the calories consumed before bed are still part of your overall caloric intake, so don’t forget to account for them, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Other 200-calorie snacks include:
- 1 cup, low fat plain yogurt and 1 cup strawberries
- 1 cup, low fat cottage cheese and a half-banana
- Fruit Smoothie: 1½ cups mixed fruit, 1 cup almond milk with 1 serving protein powder
- A hard boiled egg and ½ cup of sweet potato
- Non-dairy chocolate smoothie: 1 cup almond milk, almond butter (1 tbsp.), 1 tbsp. cacao powder
- 1 cup, steamed edamame