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Nighttime Snacking: Best and Worst Options

By Stepy Kamei

If there's one goal virtually all of us can relate to wanting, it's achieving a good night's sleep every night. Unfortunately, many of us have a hard time attaining this goal, in no small part due to unhealthy habits we've picked up. If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, and this issue has been noticeably impacting your waking life, you should start taking a look at some of your lifestyle habits to see if there's something you may be doing that's causing issues with your sleeping patterns. Studies are showing that the foods you eat in the hours before bed may lead to sleep problems later on.

When to Stop Eating for the Night

First of all, the problem you're having may simply be that you're eating too much too close to bedtime. When you eat an hour or two before bed, your body begins digesting the food. If you're asleep when this process begins, your digestive system has to work much harder, which can lead to stomach cramps, heartburn, and a need to visit the restroom at 2 a.m. Try to stay away from most foods at least two hours before bedtime. If you find you're hungry late at night, consider the emotional or physical reasons why this may be the case. You may be eating out of stress or boredom, or you may not be getting enough nutritious and filling foods throughout the day. Try adding more fiber and protein to your daytime meals, and focus on implementing stress-relieving tactics such as meditation before bed, to see if this curbs your nighttime hunger pangs.

Still Wanting a Snack?

It's OK to eat a light snack an hour or so before bed, as long as it's something that won't energize you or keep you awake. Cherries are a great nighttime snacking option, since they naturally contain the sleep hormone melatonin. Bananas, nuts, seeds, cheese, and honey are all great as well, since they contain tryptophan, another sleep-inducing hormone. If you want something more substantial, opt for a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread. The turkey has tryptophan (which explains why you're so tired after Thanksgiving dinner), while the complex carbs from the bread will keep your blood sugar levels stable for a long period of time, making it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Foods to Avoid

Obviously, caffeine should be avoided, but not just in the hour or so before bed. Many people find it's best to stop consuming caffeine in the form of coffee, sodas, or sugary products such as chocolate after 2 p.m., if they really want to get proper sleep. 

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