Almost everyone loves to grab a snack before they go to sleep. But what you choose to eat could determine whether or not you fall asleep right away.
Before you begin nighttime noshing, ask yourself: What’s your motivation? Are you bored? Stuffing emotions? Munching while watching TV? Or, are you really hungry, and if so, how hungry?
“If you’re eating just to eat – or to cure boredom or make yourself feel better – you might want to think twice before indulging,” said Patricia Salzer, a registered dietitian and workplace wellness consultant at Univera Healthcare.
“But if you’re really running on empty, opt for snacks that won’t add extra pounds or result in a restless night.”
Here’s what Salzer advised when it comes to eating before bedtime.
FOODS THAT KEEP YOU AWAKE
Large portions and high fat foods – like French fries – interfere with falling asleep, Salzer said.
Spicy foods slow down digestion.
Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and have a relaxing effect at first, then cause you to wake up because it interferes with deep sleep and interrupts the sleep cycle.
Caffeine – found in coffee, tea or chocolate – takes several hours for its stimulant powers to wear off. Even decaf has some caffeine.
High-sugar foods and overeating also can interfere with your ability to sleep.
Not all bedtime snacks are bad for you, Salzer said. Some can help you take in more nutrients that you still need for the day. Going to bed hungry can actually keep you awake.
“Try incorporating foods that help boost your levels of serotonin, the calming and ‘feel good’ hormone,” Salzer said. “You should consider nuts, seeds or lean protein including chicken, fish or low-fat cheese.”
FOODS THAT HELP YOU SLEEP
Choose a small snack with protein and carbohydrates – these types of foods either contain or help create an amino acid called tryptophan that can cause sleepiness. Excellent protein and carbohydrate combinations include whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, peanut butter on whole-grain toast, low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers, and one ounce of turkey or chicken on a slice of whole grain bread.
“Bananas and other foods high in potassium help you to stay asleep,” Salzer said. “Foods high in calcium also contain certain sleep-causing hormones, such as tryptophan and melatonin.” She recommends a container of low-fat yogurt, a cup of low-fat milk, or a slice of low-fat cheese, such as mozzarella.
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