We’re no strangers to late-night cravings. When the artificial glow of the refrigerator calls, thoughts begin to swirl. Sweet or savory? Crunchy and cold? Or warm and buttery? Decisions, decisions. Be it a twilight Netflix binge, an after-hours party with friends, or a project with a tight deadline, hunger doesn’t discriminate. It beckons on the whim of our dynamic appetites. But good news! If you’re torn between satisfying your hunger and ensuring a peaceful slumber, there’s no need to choose. Healthy late-night snacks (and drinks!) can enhance a good night’s sleep.
In this guide, we’re exploring the world of nourishing late-night snacks—balanced bites designed for better sleep. Get the rundown on nutrients worth noshing on, why fats and protein are key, and soothing teas for restful zzz’s. Last but not least, if you’re worried about derailing your physique goals, fear not! We’re here to prove that a bedtime snack is a valuable ally.
Featured image from our interview with Sanetra Nere Longno.
Edie is the founder of nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie. With her background and expertise, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness.
Is having a bedtime snack healthy?
Yes! A bedtime snack—when chosen with nutrition in mind—can support a variety of health goals. First and foremost, it plays a crucial role in hormone balance. Foods rich in tryptophan and magnesium (think: pumpkin seeds and Greek yogurt) help produce serotonin and melatonin, hormones essential for regulating sleep patterns. Secondly, a bedtime snack can keep blood sugar levels stable, preventing a sugar crash in the middle of the night. Last but not least, for those aiming to gain lean muscle mass, a protein-forward snack supports overnight muscle repair, fostering progress, recovery, and strength.
No, a Bedtime Snack Won’t Derail Your Physique Goals
Counter to common misconceptions, a well-chosen bedtime snack can benefit your well-being. Research shows it helps your metabolism, prevents overeating the next day, and boosts sleep-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. In other words, your late-night snack isn’t just about curbing cravings. It’s a mindful choice that aligns with a holistic approach to health and wellness.
Supports your metabolism
Consuming a balanced snack prevents the body from entering a catabolic state during the night. Trying to gain lean muscle mass? This is particularly important.
Prevents overeating the next day
A satisfying late-night snack can prevent overeating the next day (and minimize unhealthy food choices).
Boosts sleep-regulating neurotransmitters
Tryptophan and magnesium facilitate the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin. These neurotransmitters play a pivotal role in signaling it’s time to wind down. In turn, this contributes to a more restful and rejuvenating sleep.
Foods to Avoid for Better Sleep
While a bedtime snack won’t derail your health goals (and, in all reality, can be advantageous!), not all snacks are created equal. Scroll this list for top offenders. To summarize, foods high in caffeine—such as coffee ice cream and chocolate bars—should be avoided due to their stimulant effects. Spicy and acidic foods, like salsa or curry, may lead to indigestion and discomfort, making it harder to relax. Additionally, fatty and greasy foods (potato chips, heavy cheeses, etc.), can slow digestion and cause discomfort when lying down. When possible, minimize these types of foods for better sleep hygiene.
Specific Nutrients That Help You Fall Asleep
On the flip side, what are nutrients that help you fall asleep (and stay asleep)? Enter: the trifecta of magnesium, tryptophan, and melatonin. Incorporating these into your healthy late-night snacks is game changing.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is known for its muscle-relaxing properties, making it an excellent choice for a peaceful night’s sleep. Foods rich in magnesium—such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, and brown rice—are wholesome late-night options. Enjoy 1-2 brown rice cakes with nut butter, pumpkin seeds, and a dash of cinnamon.
- Tryptophan: As mentioned, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, both essential for regulating sleep. Turkey, chicken, and dairy products are great sources of tryptophan. Nosh on a few turkey and cheese roll-ups as a sleep-inducing snack.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Incorporate foods that naturally boost melatonin levels, such as tart cherry juice or a small bowl of cherries, to help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.
Why Blood Sugar Balance Is Key for Restful Sleep
With those nutrients in mind, focus on maintaining stable blood sugar levels. This prevents disruptions in sleep. How can you do this? Opt for ingredients that encourage a slow and steady release of glucose. A few favorites: cottage cheese, sprouted grains, berries, nuts, and seeds. When in doubt, combine complex carbs with a source of protein and healthy fats—Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of chia seeds and granola or a bowl of popcorn mixed with pumpkin seeds, walnuts, coconut flakes, and unsweetened dried cherries.
5 Nutritionist-Approved Bedtime Snack Ideas
Contrary to the myth that eating before bed is a recipe for weight gain, choosing the right combination of healthy fats and protein can support your health goals. Looking for inspo? We have you covered.
Vanilla Chia Pudding With Chestnut Honey & Berries. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and a touch of sweetness, this late-night snack curbs sweet cravings without the sugar crash. Add a drizzle of nut butter for extra staying power.
Avocado Toast with a Jammy Egg. Want a savory bite before bed? This simple avocado toast is as balanced as it gets—fiber-rich carbs, healthy fats, and protein.
Healthy Oatmeal Cookies. Most nights, a cookie or two is just what the post-toddler-bedtime-routine ordered. These have wholesome ingredients with a relatively small amount of sugar, along with coconut flakes and walnuts for added satiation.
Almond Butter Green Smoothie. Toss in a scoop of vanilla protein powder and this smoothie is a bedtime winner. It’s naturally sweet, loaded with magnesium-loving greens, and comes together in minutes.
Grain-Free Zucchini Muffins. Crumble one of these on top of a bowl of Greek yogurt—or pop one in the air fryer and drizzle it with peanut butter—and your morning muffin just got a nighttime upgrade.
Herbal Teas to Drink Before Bed
Along with your late-night snack, consider the ritual of sipping on a warm, soothing cup of tea (or bone broth…or a sleepy girl mocktail) before bed. Certain herbal teas have properties that promote relaxation, signaling it’s time to hit the hay.
- Chamomile: Chamomile tea is renowned for its calming effects. It contains antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and anxiety, making it an ideal choice for a pre-sleep ritual.
- Lavender: Lavender has long been associated with relaxation. A cup of lavender tea can have calming effects on the nervous system, preparing your body and mind for a peaceful night’s sleep.
- Peppermint: Peppermint tea contains menthol, which is a naturally occurring muscle relaxant. Mint tea can help encourage full-body relaxation after a stressful day.
- Passionflower: Passionflower tea contains the flavone chrysin, which aids against anxiety. It may help you sleep more peacefully.
Sleep-Friendly Snacks Are Worth the Hype
Ultimately, the key to a restful night’s sleep lies in creating a mindful nighttime routine. And yes, that includes choosing the right snack(s). But by incorporating specific nutrients and prioritizing blood sugar balance, you can enhance both your sleep quality and overall health goals. Tonight, when you find yourself peering into the fridge, consider opting for a sleep-friendly snack—one that sets the stage for sweet dreams.