Bedtime Snacks That Help You Fall Asleep
Healthy Bedtime Snack Ideas That Induce Sleep
By Wendy Travis
Published January 15, 2014
The bedtime snack has gotten a bad rap, becoming the culprit in everything from bouts of insomnia to extra pounds. However, the right bedtime snacks can promote relaxation with ingredients that help you get to sleep and stay asleep. And if you make nutritious selections, you won’t have to worry about packing on the extra weight due to a case of late night munchies. Whether you prefer a glass of warm milk with a dash of nutmeg, or a snack with a bit more substance, there is a snack that can settle your post dinner cravings and prepare you for a night of slumber.
A good general rule for any type of bedtime meal is to keep your food selections healthy. This will help you to sleep, since bedtime snacks high in sugar can create a fluctuation in your blood sugar levels and keep you awake. Nutritious, low-fat options will also ensure that you maintain a healthy weight despite your late-night snacking habit. Replace those cookies and other sweets with healthy alternatives and you will be able to drift off to slumber land guilt free. We have broken down the topic of the bedtime snack into categories with a purpose, so that you can find foods to help you sleep, munchies for building muscle and delectable treats that won’t interfere with your daytime diet.
Snacks for Slumber
There are two types of snacks to choose from; those that induce a sleep state and those that give us energy. According to askdrsears.com, these two categories of food are referred to as “sleepers” and “wakers”. While it’s pretty clear that sleepers are the foods of choice for a bedtime snack, you will need to know what constitutes a sleeper so that you can make sleep-inducing selections during those late night hours.
The best bedtime snacks consist of foods containing tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps the body make serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that aids in the sleep process. For the best bedtime snack, try combining a food containing tryptophan with a carbohydrate that will help the tryptophan to function more efficiently. Dr. Sears recommends a healthy bedtime snack that includes complex carbohydrates, some protein and a bit of calcium for good measure. Slumber foods might include:
-Lowfat milk or cheese
-Seafood, meat or poultry
-Whole grains, such as a bowl of cereal with skim milk
-A peanut butter sandwich
-Yogurt with granola sprinkled on top
-A sliced apple with one ounce of cheese
The Mayo Clinic also advises people to avoid spicy foods that cause heartburn and prevent a restful sleep. It is also a good idea to stay away from beverages that contain the stimulant caffeine or alcohol, which can lead to frequent awakenings during the night. Foods high in sugar can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep because they can wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels, and drinking a lot of fluids before turning in may cause frequent trips to the restroom during the night.
Snacks for Fitness
If you are on a weight training program where you are working to burn fat and increase muscle mass, a healthy bedtime snack may be just the ticket. In fact, body building generally requires the consumption of six smaller meals every day, including a snack before bedtime. Womenfitness.net suggests that the stretch between dinner and breakfast can be a long one to go without food, and that a bedtime snack can help to maintain the anabolism, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. A bedtime snack does not have to turn into a bedtime meal however, so for most folks a 100-calorie snack consisting of fiber and protein should be enough to fit the bill.
Some body builders drink a protein shake that includes carbohydrates and fiber before retiring, but you can also find a low-cal snack that offers the same nutritional value. There are protein shakes on the market for this specific purpose, or you can create your own with one of the many recipes available in fitness magazines and on the Internet. If muscle mass is your goal, a bit more protein in the snack may be helpful, as long as you balance your protein intake with complex carbohydrates that will maximize the function of the tryptophan. This late night snack may enhance your sleep time, since bodies that are working hard to build muscle mass often cannot go for too many hours without nutrition going into the bloodstream.
Weight-Watching Bedtime Snacks
If you are trying to drop a few extra pounds, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a healthy bedtime snack. If you are simply looking for a way to relax in the evenings without adding calories, you can sip a steaming mug of herbal tea. Look for those that are designed for rest and relaxation, and you will be lulled to sleep by the rich aromas and warm liquid. If you are looking for more substance, Weight Watchers suggests a whole grain cereal with skim milk or a bit of peanut butter spread on crackers. You can also opt for a low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers or a few sunflower seeds. For those snackers who want to know the calorie count of their bedtime food, Good Housekeeping came up with a list of 100-calorie snacks that are also shown on WebMD. Some of the choices that work well for bedtime snacks include:
*½ cup cottage cheese with five strawberries
*1 hard-boiled egg with a slice of Melba toast
*Half of a medium cantaloupe
*40 pretzel sticks
*4 slices of ham with honey mustard, wrapped in lettuce leaves
*½ mini bagel with one ounce of smoked salmon
Weight Watchers also recommends that you begin your evening with a healthy bedtime meal that will fill you up at dinner as it prepares you for a night of rest. These menu choices might include a chicken sandwich, a tuna salad, seafood and pasta or scrambled eggs with parsley.
These dishes are all high in complex carbohydrates, yet low in protein which will aid in relaxation and get you ready for sleep. With these healthier alternatives earlier in the evening, you have already laid the groundwork to reap the benefits of a low-calorie bedtime snack later on.
The bedtime snack can be an enjoyable habit to get into, as long as you are choosing healthy alternatives that induce slumber without adding calories. If you follow the general rule of eating complex carbohydrates (such as whole grain breads and crackers), with protein containing a high amount of tryptophan (such as low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt), you will be heading in the right direction for the best bedtime snack. The late night munchies will never again rear its head if you are equipped with healthy bedtime snacks that satisfy your hunger cravings and help you get a good night’s rest.
What healthy snacks do you find most satisfying?