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A lot of people try not to eat anything after they finish dinner, opting to head to bed with a slightly empty stomach in the hopes that doing so will help them lose weight and feel healthier. While this may work for some people, however, for the majority of us, eating your last meal three or four hours before you hit the sack means lying in bed listening to your stomach grumbling; something no one really enjoys.

The thing is, there’s no reason to force yourself to endure a hunger strike every time you go to bed. Instead of going to bed hungry, snack smart to satisfy your cravings in a healthy way. Here are some of our top tips for eating before bed, and the best foods to do it with.

General Rules to Bedtime Safe Snacks

Snack Light

Any snack that you have before sleeping should be light, without many heavy ingredients. Eating a huge heavy meal right before you go to bed can cause you to have miserable indigestion, which can disrupt your sleep and be really uncomfortable. The whole point of having some food before bed is to balance out your blood sugars. Having a big meal before you go to sleep can cause your body to go into a full state of digestion, which is the last thing you want.

Balanced Foods

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Make sure to grab yourself a balanced snack, with several types of food in it. Small amounts of proteins and carbohydrates are great for balancing out blood sugars levels late at night, but make sure to keep them in moderation. Don’t eat anything with caffeine or sugar in it because that will throw off your blood sugar levels, and keep you awake far past your bedtime!

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary to produce serotonin and melatonin in your body, and it’s the reason that people end up feeling so tired after eating a big meal. You know all of those post-Thanksgiving naps you needed to take? It wasn’t just your relatives tiring you out. It was also all of that tryptophan!

This amino acid functions as a building block in protein synthesis. Tryptophan is a pretty routine component of most protein based foods. If tryptophan makes you feel tired, it’s a good idea to incorporate foods that are rich in tryptophan into your diet before you head to bed.

Best Foods to Try Before Bed

Hummus and Veggies

Chickpeas and sesame seeds are foods that have high amounts of tryptophan in them and taste great! Hummus can be paired with easy to digest veggies like celery that can help you stabilize your blood sugar through the night. If you aren’t wheat-intolerant, you can also try hummus with a small piece of whole grain pita, which improves the production of melatonin, helping you get to sleep. Remember, 1-2 tablespoons is all you need.

Trail Mix: Nuts and Seeds

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It shouldn’t come as any surprise to realize that eating a small handful of nuts and seeds before you head to bed can be a great way to increase your tryptophan levels, as well as B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and other trace minerals that are good for you. Try including things like almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds into your late night snack.

Cheese

Cheese products are great health foods that have high levels of tryptophan in them, especially cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, and mozzarella. Cheese is a nice way to round out your midnight snack to balance the food groups up, but just be sure to eat a very small portion. Just make sure you tolerate dairy well.

Nut Butters

Any type of butter derived from nuts or seeds like peanut butter or almond butter are great for satisfying your hunger before your sleep, and they aren’t too heavy for a snack food. Just like hummus, try eating 1 tablespoon of a nut or seed butter with veggies or a few crackers to make a more complete snack.

Chicken and Turkey

Add a little protein with a portion of chicken. A cooked chicken breast is preferred, but turkey wings and breasts, and chicken wings will also do the trick. Different parts of the chicken contain different nutrients, so make sure to keep this in mind when adding it to your meal. Remember, we aren’t talking about your pub-style breaded, sauced up wings. A small portion of home-made, grilled, skinless, non-breaded wings will do the trick.

Oats and Oat Bran

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Try a little natural oatmeal to quickly satisfy your hunger at night. Oatmeal is easy on the system and provides high amounts of tryptophan, when eaten in small portions. Consider 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked portion.

Tart Cherries

Tart cherries are actually really high in melatonin, which means that drinking tart cherry juice is a great way to naturally increase your melatonin levels. A study of randomized test subjects actually found that drinking tart cherry juice right before bed noticeably improved both sleep time and quality. This makes it a great addition to any balanced bedtime snack.

Stop Slackin’, Get Snackin’

So don’t give up food before bed just because you think it’s beneficial to your health. As long as you snack smart, eating a light and balanced assortment of food before you settle down can actually be better for your body and better for your sleep. So get snacking.

Sources:

1) Howatson G, et al. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16.

2) Campbell M, et al. A Low–Glycemic Index Meal and Bedtime Snack Prevents Postprandial Hyperglycemia and Associated Rises in Inflammatory Markers, Providing Protection From Early but Not Late Nocturnal Hypoglycemia Following Evening Exercise in Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes Care July 2014 vol. 37no. 7 1845-1853

3) Top 10 Foods highest in tryptophan. Healthaliciousness.com http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/high-tryptophan-foods.php

Image Sources:

http://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/midnight-snacking-sleep-mistakes.jpg

http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/tryptophan.png

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http://myflourishmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/sleep.jpg

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Dr. Nadia Saleem
Naturopathic Doctor
Contributor to The Hearty Soul.
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