Bedtime Snacks: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

It can be hard to fall asleep at night when your stomach is rumbling. To make matters worse, we've all heard the conventional wisdom that if you want to get a good night's rest  AND avoid packing on the pounds, you should NEVER eat before bed. So what's a poor, sleepless, hungry person to do?

The answer is simple: grab a snack! That's right, having a small snack (no more than 200 calories) before bed may help you get that much needed shut eye. But you can't just be grabbing anything that looks appealing, all snacks are not created equal! You want to take a pass on anything that will energize your body and keep you awake. It's also a good idea to avoid excessive amounts of calories as they won't get burned off in sleep and will, in all likelihood, be stored in your body as fat!

Why You NEED To Sleep:

Sleep is not just important for your health and energy levels, it is absolutely crucial to your weight loss efforts! A lack of sleep disrupts your hormone production and messes up your body's natural rhythms. This can lead to an over production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which produces excess fat in the belly!

But this isn't the only way lack of sleep can lead to weight gain! When you sleep, your body has higher levels of the hormone leptin. This hormone tells your brain you have had enough to eat and that there is no need to burn calories for energy. Similarly, during sleep your body's levels of the hormone ghrelin decrease. This hormone tells your brain that you are hungry and prompts the body to store energy as fat for later use. Simply put, when you don't get enough sleep your body has too little leptin and too much ghrelin. This means you will have an increased sense of hunger (despite not actually needing food) and your calories will be stored as fat for later use!

To ensure you get enough sleep and keep your weight in check, take a look at the do's and don'ts of bedtime snacking!

The Forbidden Snacks:

Caffeine: This one probably goes without saying, but we're saying it anyway! If you want to get to sleep at night, take a pass on foods and drinks containing caffeine! This includes chocolate, unfortunately. If you are caffeine sensitive, you might want to consider avoiding decaffeinated teas as well since they can also cause a reaction!

Spicy Foods: It doesn't matter how well you handle the heat in your waking hours, it's not good for the body at bedtime! Spicy foods may cause distress and disruption in your digestion leading to gas and reflux making it difficult for you (and your body) to fall asleep!

Fatty Foods: Foods that are high in saturated fats can be a nightmare! They sit in your stomach longer which means potential indigestion!

Sugary Foods: Sugar gives your body a quick dose of energy. It will keep your mind humming long after your head hits the pillow. Furthermore, the energy your body doesn't use, will be stored as fat!

Processed Carbohydrates: It is best to avoid processed carbohydrates at any time but this is especially true at bedtime. Again, your body has to work hard to digest these foods which will disrupt your sleep. And, like sugar, the calories that don't get used will be stored as fat.

While this list may eliminate some of the foods you enjoy snacking on, you still have plenty of options. In fact, there are many foods (and food combinations) you could eat that will actually HELP you sleep.

So, if you're looking to tame those pre-sleep munchies AND ensure you get a good night's rest, there are a few options you can try!

Sleep-Friendly Snacks:

The best nighttime snacks are those that combine carbohydrates and protein. These sorts of snacks cause a slight rise in blood sugar which increases insulin production and allows tryptophan (the sleep-inducing amino acid) to enter the brain more easily. Eating foods, like dairy, that already contain tryptophan is also helpful! Remember, you don't want too much of anything, just a little bite around 150-200 calories. Here are some carb and protein balanced options worth trying!
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter on a slice of whole wheat toast
  • a piece of fruit (like an apple) and a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 1/2 ounce of nuts with 1/4 ounce of dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup of cereal with milk
  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
  • a few crackers with cheese
Do you find yourself feeling hungry before bed? What healthy snacks do you choose? Share your story with us in the comments, we'd love to hear your solutions!

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