Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and realized you’re hungry? So hungry that you have trouble going back to sleep?
Nutritionists generally recommend not eating less than two hours before bed.
"When we sleep, everything in our body slows down, including digestion.
This is particularly key for those with gastrointestinal issues, as going to bed too full can make heartburn and reflux worse.
But what do you do if you feel the need to eat before going to bed? What are the best foods to eat before bed?
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The Critical Time Comes Just Before Bedtime
If you eat dinner around 6 or 7 PM and then stay up till 10 or 11 PM, you’ll probably get hungry before bed.
The greatest struggle comes right before bed when we are more likely to choose the wrong food to eat, leading not only to a restless night of sleep but also to feeling a bit heavier the following morning.
To prevent insomnia the recommendation is to avoid heavy meals before bed.
Instead, consume larger meals earlier in the day and have a small meal or snack in the evening.
There are many strategies one can use to promote good sleep, these include making changes to the diet, as some foods actually have sleep-promoting properties.
Let’s go through 15 of the best foods to eat before going to bed!
Can Nuts Help Me Sleep?
Nuts are one of the best snacks to have before bedtime. Nuts are an excellent source of nutrients and they contain compounds that studies claim to help boost sleep quality. (source)
Almonds before bedtime
Almonds are an excellent source of many nutrients, like phosphorus, manganese, and riboflavin.
Almonds are also rich in magnesium and consuming adequate amounts of magnesium may help improve your sleep quality.
It can especially be helpful for those who suffer from insomnia.
It’s been claimed that almonds may help boost sleep quality. This is because almonds are a great source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin and that it may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep.
Pistachios before bedtime
Pistachios have the most melatonin content of nuts. They also have a high content of protein, vitamin B6, and magnesium, all of which contribute to better sleep.
Even though these nuts might help you with your sleep, it’s important that you don't overdo it. Don't eat more than a 1-ounce portion of nuts.
Anything too high in calories can have the reverse effect and keep you awake instead.
Walnuts before bedtime
Walnuts are great before bedtime. Walnuts are a high source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is a sleep-enhancing amino acid that regulates significantly two sleep hormones, serotonin and melatonin.
This makes walnuts one of the better nuts to eat.
You should eat about a handful of walnuts every day, not just for the potentially better quality of sleep, but also for its nutritional value and the health benefits you can get of adding walnuts to your daily diet.
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Can I Eat Snacks Before Bed?
Yes, there are a few snacks that you can eat before your bedtime, that aren't just tasty but also have the potential to aid your sleep.
Whole grain crackers with a thin spread of peanut butter
Whole-grain crackers is a great alternative for a bedtime snack. If you have some peanut butter on, it’ll only get better.
One tablespoon of peanut butter contains a good dose of magnesium. The deficiency of magnesium has been linked to insomnia and muscle cramps, which can disrupt sleep.
The carbohydrates found in crackers will stimulate the concentration of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that causes sleepiness.
Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan, which is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both carbohydrates and proteins, like whole-grain crackers with a thin spread of peanut butter. (source)
You could also replace the peanut butter with for instance almond butter. That might give an even better effect on your sleep quality.
Plain popcorn before bedtime (or why not as a movie-snack?)
Air-popped popcorn is a perfect late-night snack when sitting in front of the TV. The carbs in popcorn stimulate the release of insulin, which has been proven to control your circadian clock.
Eating whole grains has been linked to several health benefits and popcorn eaten plain and air-popped is the only food that is 100% whole grain by weight!
However popcorn is often consumed with added fat and salt, ingredients which when eaten excessively could negatively affect diet, health and might have a negative effect on your sleep quality. (source)
Dried prunes before bedtime
Dried prunes are a great late-night snack, but you shouldn't eat too many of them. Dried plums have a high content of nutrients, like vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium.
Vitamin B6 helps convert tryptophan into melatonin. A deficiency in B6 has been linked with lowered serotonin levels and poor sleep.
You can use prunes as topping on your yogurt or eat them on their own about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Cottage cheese before bedtime
A small amount of cottage cheese. This is one of the best foods to eat before bed because it boosts metabolism, controls hunger pangs in the morning and it's rich in casein protein, which gradually releases into the body.
This will ensure you have a steady supply of amino acids throughout the night.
The casein is also known to sustain overnight muscle repair and growth when consumed before bedtime.
Cottage cheese is high in protein and can be digested slowly. You could add a few berries or nuts for some natural sweetness and added nutrients.
I recommend adding almonds, pistachios or walnuts so you get their sleep enhancing effects at the same time. (source)
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What Kind Of Meal Can I Eat Before Bedtime?
It’s not a good idea to eat a steady meal right before bedtime. That’s because of all the work your body needs to do digest it while you sleep.
But there are some minor meals that you can eat with a good conscience, as long as you don't overdo it.
Greek yogurt before bedtime?
Dairy products are great to eat before bedtime because of their tryptophan content.
Greek yogurt has several benefits and might be something worth trying before bedtime.
Compared to traditional yogurt the greek one offers more proteins and contributes to longer periods of satiety throughout the night.
To make it even tastier and more nutritious you can naturally sweeten the yogurt with fresh berries or fruits and some nuts.
Adding nuts or tart cherries to your yogurt might give you added benefits as they are believed to contain a significant amount of melatonin. A hormone that regulates our sleep cycle. (source)
Whole grain cereals with milk before bedtime
A bowl of fiber-rich cereals can actually lower your body weight. Right carbs are good for sleep and they help to keep you satiated all night long.
The fiber is digested slowly through the night.
Eating your cereal with milk makes it an ideal bedtime snack, as you’ll also get an extra dose of calcium and vitamin D from the added milk.
The carbohydrates in the cereals, as well as the milk, contain tryptophan which helps to keep you calm and sleep well. (source)
Oatmeal before bedtime
Many think that oatmeal is a great breakfast, but oatmeal can also be great to eat before bedtime.
The grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production just like whole-grain bread.
When you raise your blood sugar naturally it can make you feel sleepy.
Oats are also rich in melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps you fall asleep.
What Kind Of Tea Is Good Before Bedtime
It's not just foods that are great for sleep.
Many teas contain essential vitamins and minerals that can help you sleep better.
Herb teas that don't contain caffeine are great before bedtime.
Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea that may offer a variety of health benefits, like boosting the immune system, reducing anxiety and depression and improving skin health.
Chamomille also has unique properties that aid in sleep quality.
Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
Drinking chamomile tea before going to bed is certainly worth trying if you want to improve the quality of your sleep. (source)
We got an article about natural sleep aids where chamomile tea is one of the many listed all-natural sleep aids that can help you sleep better.
Passionflower tea before bedtime
Passionflower tea is a herbal tea that’s been used traditionally for many years. Lots of studies have been made on passionflower tea for its potential to reduce anxiety.
Passionflower tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that produces a calming effect by binding to certain receptors in your brain.
The calming properties of passionflower tea may promote sleepiness, so it may be beneficial to drink it before going to bed. (source)
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Are Fruits A Good Alternative To Eat Before Bedtime?
Fruits can be a good alternative before bedtime. You should only eat fresh fruit and limit the amount you eat to one serving or eat it a few hours before you go to bed.
Otherwise, it might disrupt your sleep.
Tart cherries before bedtime
There is clinical evidence that supports the sleep-promoting effects of tart cherries.
Tart cherries have been shown to improve sleep quality and increase melatonin concentrations.
Tart cherries have also been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory characteristics that may be beneficial in improving sleep quality.
The consumption of tart cherry juice, by the berries Montmorency cherries, has been shown to improve sleep quality. (source)
I recommend you read more about the use of tart cherries and other methods to help you sleep better in our article about natural sleep aids.
Kiwifruit before bedtime
There is clinical evidence that supports the sleep-promoting effects of kiwifruit.
Kiwis have high antioxidant levels that allow your body to absorb the kiwis content of serotonin, which can substantially improve sleep quantity and quality.
The consumption of 2 kiwifruits 1 hour before bedtime appears to enhance the sleep of individuals with self-reported sleep disorders and may also promote sleep in healthy individuals. (source)
Bananas before bedtime
Bananas are considered super fruits and believed to be one of the best foods to eat before bed. That’s because of their tryptophan and fiber content along with their natural sweetness.
Bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium that can reduce headaches, relax muscles and soothe late night cramps.
They also contain the sleep-regulating hormones, melatonin and serotonin, thatboth have positive effects on sleep quality.
Eating a banana one hour before bedtime is also believed to make it easier for you to wake up. (source)
Conclusion: There Are Plenty Of Delicious Foods You Can Eat Before Bed
Next time, before you get yourself a bedtime snack, I recommend you to think about why you want it?
Is it because you’re hungry or is it just a way to relax or indulge after a hard day?
Has eating before bedtime become a habit for you or do you eat because you’re actually hungry?
If it’s just a way to relax after a hard days work I recommend you try drinking one of the teas we’ve covered in this article or why not air-popped plain popcorn?
Habits are hard to break, so keep them and turn them more healthy instead!
The goal would be to instead of trying to break the habit of eating before bedtime whether you’re hungry or not to replace the foods that you do eat with those that help you sleep.
Foods that are healthier.
That way you’re free to either continue with your habit or not without if affecting your health in a negative way.
If you’re hungry I recommend you try eating foods that’ll keep you satiated the whole night.
For instance Greek yogurt with some added berries or nuts. Or why not oatmeal with a sliced banana?
Effects vary between individuals, find the ones that works for you
Whether your sleep is affected by the food you eat right before bedtime is different from person to person.
Some people sleep well no matter what, while others will find certain foods make sleep more difficult.
You may need to try a few different options to see which works the best for you.
What is important is that your bedtime snacks should be healthy, nutritious and ideally low in calories.
Carbohydrate based snacks are thought to be a really good option to get a good night's sleep, as they are believed to raise levels of tryptophan in the blood, which consequently increases serotonin levels in the body.
It's best to choose carbohydrates based on whole grains, as these provide more fiber, minerals, and vitamins than the more refined sources.
They are more likely to keep you fuller for longer so that you can sleep well throughout the night.
Figure out which of these foods works for you and you might never again wake up in the middle of the night feeling hungry.
Good night and sleep well!
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Frequently asked questions about foods to eat before bedtime
Is it okay to eat right before bed?
Yes, it can be okay to eat before bedtime. The recommendation is to avoid heavy meals before bed. Instead, consume larger meals earlier in the day and have a small meal or snack in the evening.
What foods are high in melatonin?
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, oats, tart cherries and bananas are great examples of foods with high melatonin levels. Eating these before bed might help improve your sleep quality.
What to drink to help you sleep?
Chamomile tea or a glass of tart cherry juice is perfect to your late night snack, and it might help you sleep better. Many herbal teas contain essential vitamins and minerals that can help you sleep better.
Which fruit can I eat before bed?
Tart cherries, kiwifruit or bananas are super fruits that are good to eat before bedtime. But you should only eat fresh fruit and limit the amount you eat to one serving.