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Are You Taking The Right Snack Before Sleep?

Which gives you a better night's sleep? Wine or a bowl of rice? Find out which foods to snack on to help you sleep better:

Don’t you hate it when you are on the bed, all prepared to catch some shut-eye when your stomach starts grumbling, ‘I am hungry, feed me or you shall not sleep tonight!’? It could be caused by anything, from cravings, stress, dehydration to just plain boredom [1]. It’s a struggle when you really want to catch up on sleep and you worry about the unnecessary weight gain that might come from suppers, but you also really need that peanut butter sandwich.

Before you start pillaging the fridge, check this chart to ensure you’re really hungry and not just bored.

Okay then, now that you’ve checked the chart and are back here knowing fully certain that you are hungry, here is a happy fact on meals before bedtime — the ‘you will gain weight if you eat supper’ myth? That’s bogus. As long as your supper does not exceed your calorie needs for the day, you won’t gain any extra kilos [2]. So it is pointless to force yourself to sleep off your hungry tummy because you won’t be able to get good quality sleep by doing so.

It is however, very important that you choose the right foods to bite into, as what you eat could affect how well you sleep. Sometimes, a late dinner can lower the quality of your sleep since your body will take about 4 hours to digest all of it. If you had a light dinner earlier, then you can have a small snack that is around 150-200 calories before going to bed to keep you full until the next morning [3].

Check out the best and worst foods that could either make or break your beauty sleep:

Sleep champions

best food before bedtime supper

  • Warm milk: This comfort drink actually works to help you sleep better, but not because of its nutritional content. Warm milk has more of a psychological connection that you can relate to as it reminds you about the time your parents used to make you a cup of it before bedtime when you were young. In the same sense, warm Milo would work too! [4]
  • Tuna sandwich: Tuna, salmon, halibut and most fishes are rich in vitamin B6, which is what your body needs to produce melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone [5]. Have tuna packed in water instead of the oil soaked variety to help your body digest better. The oil packed variety might not sit well in your stomach and could cause an acid reflux [6].
  • Plain popcorn: Popcorn has complex carbohydrates that produce more tryptophan, an amino acid that your brain needs to make more serotonin, a sleep-activated neurotransmitter [7]. Go for the plain, fat-free variety and take it up a notch with our popcorn recipes.
  • Sweet potato: The potassium in sweet potatoes act as a muscle relaxant. Together with its complex carbohydrates, it’s a recipe to dreamland [8]. Cut it into small pieces so that it cooks faster, and steam for a sweet treat.
  • Banana: Bananas have potassium and magnesium, which are natural sleep-inducing minerals and muscle relaxants and great for a bedtime snack. It contains melatonin too so having 1 large banana could actually make you feel a little drowsy [9].
  • Rice: Research has shown that people who have rice regularly will sleep better than those who consume noodles and pasta because rice is high in glycemic index (GI). Food that has higher GI will transport more tryptophan to the brain, giving you longer quality sleep [10].

Sleep kryptonites

worst food before bedtime supper

  • Coffee: You might not be too sensitive to the caffeine in coffee if you are an avid coffee drinker so sleeping won’t be too difficult. But if coffee gives you a caffeine high, try avoid having a cuppa in the evenings if you want to get some sleep [11]. Energy and carbonated drinks are also filled with caffeine so steer clear from those too.
  • Curry and other spicy food: Eating spicy food before bed not only gives you heartburn (which gets worse when you are lying down), it also increases your body’s temperature which can disturb your sleep cycles [12].
  • Ice cream: High in sugar and fat, it can keep you up all night and contribute to weight gain too [13].
  • Alcohol: Most people assume that alcohol is a great sleep aid because it makes them drowsy, but that’s not the case. You might sleep quicker but the more you drink, the less REM sleep you will get, and we all know that contributes significantly to sleep quality [14].
  • Chocolate: It doesn’t matter if it is dark chocolate, chocolate still contains heart pumping stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine that can disrupt your sleep [15].
  • Cheeseburger: Fatty meals such as a huge cheeseburger and french fries increase the acids in your stomach which could cause heartburn and slow down your metabolism making it harder to burn fat [16].

Tips to eat right to sleep tight

  • Avoid having a heavy meal 4 hours before going to bed.
  • If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks in the evening.
  • Wake up hungry? Snack lightly (between 150-200 calories).
  • Munch on food that contains melatonin such as cherries.
  • Eat a bit of protein with complex carbs to balance your meal out. (A tablespoon of peanut butter with whole wheat toast is good!)
  • Have a bite from foods containing tryptophan to promote your brain’s serotonin levels.
  • No alcohol before bed. You don’t want to torture your partner with a snorefest.
  • Stay away from spicy curries if you want to sleep comfortably.

At the end of the day, if eating a small meal before bedtime is what you need to sort out those hunger pangs and sleep better, go for it. Just be careful as your little snack can easily propel you above your recommended daily calorie intake (which differs between individuals), which can lead to little elves sewing your pants tighter every night.

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What’s your usual late-night supper? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook page!

Sources: Web MDGreatist, Health, SF Gate, Prevention, Sleep.org, Bodybuilding, HealthHub, BBC Good Food
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