What you eat in the evening plays a critical role in the quality and duration of your sleep. Ensure sweet dreams by choosing one of our best foods to eat late at night.
Holley Johnson Grainger, M.S., R.D.
January 03, 2014
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Best Midnight Snacks
There is mixed advice about how much, which types, and when certain foods should be eaten to promote sleep. Eating heavy, spicy, or high-fat foods before bed may cause your sleep to be disturbed, leaving you feeling restless and tired the next day. However, you can still look to your kitchen before hitting the sack by choosing one of these late-night snacks rich in sleep-inducing nutrients like tryptophan, melatonin, protein, and carbohydrates. A restful night’s sleep is just a bite away.
Cherries are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin, which helps control your body’s internal clock. This sleep-promoting hormone lowers body temperature and helps induce drowsiness. A recent study found that adults who drank two daily glasses of tart cherry juice slept 40 minutes longer on average and had up to a 6% increase in sleep efficiency. Try a small bowl of fresh cherries or a glass of tart cherry juice before bed to help you get some shut-eye.
If you’re looking for a cool treat before bed, skip the sugar-packed ice cream and enjoy a small bowl of cottage cheese topped with fresh berries, chopped nuts, and cinnamon. The slow-digesting protein found in cottage cheese will keep you from getting hungry in the middle of the night while the calcium eases you to sleep. Protein before bed can also help control reflux for those who frequently wake up with heartburn during the night.
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If you want a quick snack before bed that doesn’t require any prep work, grab a handful of almonds. They’re a rich source of the sleep-supporting amino acid tryptophan, as well as the nutrient magnesium, a natural muscle relaxer. Plus, the protein in almonds will keep you full all night. Keep a simple trail mix recipe of almonds, dried tart cherries, toasted coconut flakes, and sunflower seeds on hand for a sleep-enhancing snack.
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The old wives' tale about drinking a glass of milk before bed to ease you to sleep may be more accurate than you think. Dairy foods, like milk, are rich in tryptophan and calcium, two nutrients that are linked to restful sleep. Recent research suggests that calcium deficiency results in a lack of deep (REM) sleep, so make sure you’re filling up each day with an adequate amount. Also, the tryptophan in milk, when coupled with carbohydrates (think warm milk and honey), plays a role in helping to unwind before bed. So drink up for a restful evening.
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A banana is a quick and easy snack to munch on before bed that will help you get some extra shut-eye. Bananas are packed with two powerhouse nutrients: potassium and magnesium. In addition to many other health benefits, these nutrients help relax your muscles, resulting in a restful night. Bananas are also high in carbohydrates, which have been shown to make you sleepy by making tryptophan more readily available to the brain. Pair your banana with a spread of almond butter to add a creamy, flavorful, protein-rich component to your late-night snack.
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While many may think of oats solely as a breakfast food, they are also an ideal bedtime snack. Oats are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Plus, complex carbohydrates, such as oats, make tryptophan more readily available to the brain. Unwind with a bowl of warm oatmeal prepared with milk and top with toasted almonds for a triple boost of sleepy-time foods to help you get your zzz’s.
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Eggs are excellent sources of protein, so whip up a scrambled egg with whole-wheat toast for a quick late-night snack. By pairing eggs with carbohydrate-rich toast, the process of releasing serotonin becomes more efficient. The complex carbohydrates from the toast will make tryptophan more readily available to your brain, and the protein will help to stave off hunger for a restful night of sleep. Sprinkle some cheese into your scrambled eggs for a calcium boost to produce even more sleepiness.
Lavender is used in many products such as candles, oils, sprays, and lotions as a sleep promoter. You can also unwind by simply drinking a glass of decaffeinated lavender tea to help you feel relaxed and calm. Despite the overwhelming amounts of lavender-containing products designed for sleep, lavender is not a cure for insomnia. However, studies have shown that it has calming properties that allow many to fall asleep more easily. Try making our lavender syrup and stirring it in a glass of hot or iced decaf tea.