If you’re an insomniac, you’re probably all too familiar with the dilemma of the bedtime snack.
Traditional wisdom holds that eating before bed is a mistake of the highest order—one that might cause weight gain, discomfort, and sleeplessness. The hungry insomniac faces the bedtime choice of lying awake listening to their stomach rumble, or defying conventional advice and risking the unpleasantness that awaits late-night snackers.
Fortunately, the situation may not be such a catch-22 after all. If you’re smart about your snacking, eating a little something before bed might even help you catch some zzz’s.
Keep It Light, Time It Right
Your digestive system slows down when you're sleeping, so eating a heavy meal right before bed just doesn’t make sense. Aim for a small snack that won’t weigh you down, and try to eat it 90 minutes to an hour before you hit the sheets.
Understand the Chemistry
What to eat? If you’re prone to sleeplessness, try snacking on foods that are high in tryptophan, which is necessary for the production of the relaxation-inducing neurotransmitter serotonin. This makes bananas, nuts, seeds, honey, cheese, and eggs a good choice for a late night bite.
Complex carbs also give you a seratonin boost, and mixing healthy high-carb foods with foods high in tryptophan should keep the tryptophan in your system longer. Consider light whole-grain foods, like whole wheat crackers or pasta.
Cherries and cherry juice are also a good choice, since the fruit is the only food source of the sleep hormone melatonin.
So if you’re hungry and bedtime is fast approaching, try having a handful of nuts and cherries, a banana with almond butter, or whole grain crackers with a bit of cheese.
Know What to Avoid
Loading up on serotonin-promoting foods won’t do you much good if you don’t take care to avoid foods that jolt you awake.
Foods that contain caffeine are an obvious no-no. This includes coffee, chocolate, and some sodas.
But there’s more: Alcohol may make you feel drowsy at first, but can also cause restless sleep. Spicy and fatty foods can also contribute to sleep deprivation, so consider saving that sriracha for another time if you’re eager for some shuteye.
Eating a smart bedtime snack is unlikely to cure your insomnia, but if you’re hungry before bed, you might as well choose foods to eat that aid in relaxation.
Insomnisnacking: It’s a thing.