Eating before bed is generally not recommended, as it can disrupt sleep and lower the quality of your slumber (1, 2). However, if hunger is disturbing your sleep, or if you are hungry to the point of not being able to fall asleep at all, it may be advisable to munch on a small snack before bed. Some foods are better than others for satisfying your appetite while not being overly disruptive to sleep. Some of these foods can actually help you sleep better. In this article, we explore the best late night snacks that help you fall asleep and also promote a deeper, higher-quality slumber.
What makes a food a good late night snack?
When it comes to choosing a good bedtime snack, it all comes down to the nutrients in the food. Not every healthy food is necessarily a good choice for a bedtime snack. For example, foods with a high glycemic index (GI) which are generally less recommended for diet are actually better for inducing sleep than low GI foods (3). High GI foods raise blood sugar quickly and take less time to digest. In general, foods that take a long time to digest will interfere with your sleep, so try to avoid foods such as meat before bedtime.
Now that we’ve covered what you shouldn’t eat, let’s talk about what you should eat. Which foods make the best late night snacks?
Top 8 late night snacks
- Lettuce – Lettuce is the perfect late night snack, as it contains lactucarium, a substance with mild sedative properties that can help you drift off more easily (4). Since eating lettuce on its own is not particularly exciting, you can combine it with some of the other foods on this list to create a delicious, nutritious, and sleep-friendly salad.
- Bananas – Bananas contain tryptophan and magnesium. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that can improve sleep by increasing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. Magnesium helps regulate the circadian cycle and can increase melatonin production as well.
- Almonds – Almonds are a wonderful source of melatonin and magnesium. Magnesium can promote higher-quality sleep because it lowers the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which is disruptive to sleep.
- Chamomile Tea – Chamomile tea is a highly beneficial drink for inducing sleep. It contains apigenin, an antioxidant that promotes sleepiness, reduces insomnia, and improves overall sleep quality (5).
- Tart Cherries – Tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidants and provide important nutrients such as magnesium. It has been studied for its ability to induce sleep and reduce insomnia, mostly due to its high melatonin content. As mentioned previously, melatonin is very important for sleep and consuming it can provide sleep-related benefits. For those of you who find them too sour, you can enjoy the benefits of tart cherries with a supplement such as Research Verified Tart Cherry.
- Walnuts – Walnuts are one of the best sources of melatonin. Not only that, but they contain the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted into DHA in the body. DHA may increase the production of serotonin, another chemical that helps regulate sleep.
- White rice – White rice has a high glycemic index (GI). When it comes to falling asleep, there is evidence suggesting that high GI foods can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality.
- Dairy products – Dairy is a known source of tryptophan. Opt for low-fat dairy products such as milk, plain yogurt, and cottage cheese. Avoid products containing higher amounts of fat, as they take longer to digest.
While eating before bed is generally not recommended, there are some healthy snack options that provide benefits for sleep. If you eat these foods in moderation and not too close to bedtime, they can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, as well as generally improve the quality of your sleep.