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Everyone needs sleep. A lack of sleep means you’ll be just downright cranky. However, there are more serious consequences such as increased risk for chronic illnesses and a lowered immune system. Most people try to do everything in their power to improve sleep, but you may not have known that this includes changing your diet. Continue reading below for a list of the best and worst foods to eat before bed and see if you can avoid that midnight snack that may be keeping you from quality sleep.
The Perfect Amount
First things first. You should eat something. If you’re feeling hungry before bed, despite your slim-down efforts, don’t starve yourself. Not eating can cause a rumbling stomach, which may interrupt your sleep. Interrupted sleep confuses your metabolism which can actually cause weight gain.
Of course, don’t overindulge either. With the opposite effect, eating a large meal means your metabolism is working longer and harder into the night. This may keep you awake longer, which means you’re still losing sleep. Don’t skip the snack, instead try a 200-calorie portion of the best foods recommended below.
If you’re gonna snack, you might as well have a healthy one. But some of these tasty treats are not only good for you, but actually promote sleep. Try any of these foods and it’s a win-win; snack a little, sleep more.
Although any of these foods are suitable choices for bedtime snacks, almonds really could be our #1. Almonds have infinite health benefits. They are associated with lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If that’s not enough, almonds contain melatonin and magnesium, both of which are sleep promoting.
Kiwi also takes the gold when it comes to sleep food. In one study, participants who consumed 2 kiwis 1 hour before bedtime, fell asleep 35% faster than those who did not. Kiwi also contains serotonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Need another reason? Kiwi is also rich in folate, and folate deficiency is linked to insomnia, so you can cross insomnia off your list!
These tart treats are yet another sleep-inducer. High in melatonin, those who consumed cherry juice reported that they slept more soundly than those who did not. Cherries are a tasteful replacement to indulgent desserts, which means they’ll keep your waistline down and while helping you catch some ZZZ’s.
No, turkey is not only reserved for Thanksgiving. But we all know that turkey’s high levels of tryptophan, does make us tired paired with all that stuffing. Tryptophan is the amino acid that increases melatonin production, which as you know by now helps you sleep. Turkey is also high in protein. Research indicates that consuming some amounts or protein, promotes tiredness and improves overall sleep quality.
- Cereal and Skim Milk
As a popular midnight snack, we’re pretty happy cereal and skim milk made the list. Milk like turkey, contains the tryptophan amino acid. Stick to skim milk however, for its lower fat count. What’s even better is rice cereal is actually shown to be able to decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep by half!
- White Rice
If rice cereal makes the list, so does white rice. Although white rice is lower in fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients than brown rice, it is a carb and high glycemic food. Evidence shows that eating high-glycemic foods even just an hour before bed my improve sleep quality. Just remember our 200- calorie recommendation.
Another delicious snack we’re happy made the list. Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium. Their secret sleep power comes from their ability to promote sleepiness through muscle relaxation. Because when your body is relaxed, it’s easier to fall asleep and sleep well.
Spinach is yet another guilt-free, sleepy snack. It is high in tryptophan, folate, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and C which together synthesize serotonin and melatonin. One helpful tip for consuming spinach is to skip the heat. Don’t cook this bedtime snack because it releases the B6 and C vitamins. As if you needed another reason to eat your spinach, but now you have it.
Turkey isn’t the only meaty snack you can eat. Also enjoy chicken or Cornish game hen or a little extra protein that won’t weigh you down. Since most meats have high levels of tryptophan, just 3 ounces makes the perfect-sized snack. Poultry is shown to increase hours of deep sleep. So, pair it with a little spinach and you may just find yourself getting all the sleep you need.
- Cottage Cheese
Since cottage cheese is a milk-based product, it also contains the amino acid tryptophan. And by now we all know that we want more tryptophan! Cottage cheese is also rich in casein protein which is a slow releasing protein that will keep you full all night. Not a fan of cottage cheese? Try adding a little something extra like kiwi or toasted almonds too.
*If you aren’t a fan of the top 10 recommended foods before bed there are a few other options that may appeal too. With so many choices, have that midnight snack. Some other foods that are on the best foods for sleep list include: chamomile, passionflower, and a variety of other teas. As well as walnuts, low fat yogurt, peanut butter on whole grains, fatty fish, and oatmeal.
Beware the foods that keep you awake, because no one wants to sleep less. Eating these foods may work against your efforts to fall asleep, or they’re just downright not good for your body anyway.
We all say it, “caffeine doesn’t affect me”, but caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system far deeper into the night. Caffeine can affect the body anywhere from 8 to 14 hours after consumption. Meaning you definitely don’t want to consume it the few hours before bed. And you may even want to avoid coffee, energy drinks or soda as an afternoon snack as well.
Drop the brownie if you want to sleep. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, so that small piece of chocolate may increase arousal, prevent your body from shutting down, and decrease the ability to fall into a deep, prolonged sleep. Those are too many risks for one small reward; sleep is much more important.
This goes without saying, but we still have to say it. Although it is true that a small glass of wine may relax you and make you fall asleep faster, you won’t stay asleep or fall into a deep sleep. Having alcohol before bed decreases your ability to fall into your REM (rapid eye movement) cycle and this deepest part of our sleep stages is one of the most important!
- Fatty Foods
The truth is that the more fatty the food, the longer it takes to breakdown and digest. And you don’t want to lose sleep over that burger you ate 6 hours ago. Fatty foods often increase boosting your metabolism and indigestion, interrupting sleep. Which is why you won’t wake up feeling relaxed and refreshed.
- High Sugar Cereals
Unlike our cereal recommendation above, high sugar cereals are not the same. These cereals have more sugar than you can imagine and will make your blood sugar skyrocket then crash throughout the night. Meaning that you really need to look at the labels to ensure you are making the right choice. If not, this will surely interrupt your sleep.
- Spicy Foods
Although spicy foods such as peppers or hot salsa are ideal for giving your metabolism a boost, they are not ideal for sleeping. These foods often have capsaicin, which may trigger heartburn. In addition, spicy foods may increase your body’s core temperature. Which will leave you waking up not only a sweaty but also with heartburn? No thank you.
- High-Protein Meal
Much like the high fat foods, high protein meals are harder for your body to breakdown, keeping you awake. Yes all that protein will contain tryptophan, however when there is more tryptophan than other amino acids, it actually reduces serotonin. So eating red meat or pork that is high in fat may be doing more harm than good.
- Dried Fruit
Just because it’s fruit doesn’t mean it’s healthy to eat before bed. Dried fruit is high in fiber which may produce gas and cramps throughout the night. They are high-fiber and low-water, and truthfully nutritionists wish you would stop eating them. Even outside of sleep dried-fruits don’t provide nearly the same positive effect as fruit.
This may come as a surprise, but water intake right before bed is not recommended, due to obvious reasons. Water makes you urinate. Frequent urination will keep you awake. You should stay hydrated throughout the day, but begin to taper off your water intake about 3 bourse before bed.
I once had a math teacher give us peppermint gum during a test to stay awake. Don’t eat, drink, or chew peppermint before bed. Although those free peppermints out the door may look enticing, skip it. Peppermint is a heartburn trigger and you’ll be glad we warned you. Even brushing your teeth with a mint flavored toothpaste may give you a brief uplift. But don’t worry, you don’t have to give up brushing your teeth before bed to still sleep well!
*Though they might not be as bad before bed as the list above there are a few other food to avoid too. Some other foods to join the list are: green tea, fries and ketchup, raw onions, pizza, and orange juice. Try our tasty recommendations above instead, and you’ll find yourself having your best night sleep.
Best and Worst Foods Before Bed – You Pick!
If you’re trying to catch some quality ZZZ’s, there are a few foods you may want to avoid. In the long run, avoiding these foods is much better on your health than consistently losing sleep. Fortunately our list of recommended foods is longer, so you have plenty of choices. Pair them, and mix and match them and make a delicious treat that will help you get the best rest.
Some of my favorite combinations are…
- Vanilla Yogurt with Cherries & Almonds
- A small Spinach salad with Turkey & Almonds
- Toasted Almonds & Walnuts
- Bananas with Peanut Butter
- Cottage Cheese with Sliced Kiwi
Any questions about the best and worst foods before bed? Or, any sleep, mattress or bedding questions you have for us? We’d be happy to help. Our Sleep Guide is here to help and all you need to do is Contact Us.
Check out this article if you want general tips for better sleep