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3 Tips on How to Pick the Perfect, Healthy, Midnight Snack

Published October 5, 2017

Ever realize when 9:00 p.m. strikes your clock, you suddenly feel famished and need something to eat before even thinking about bed. Depending on what your late night snack choice is, it may have a profound effect on how well you sleep through the night.

You Want to Consider:

Limiting or Eliminating Caffeine. Even moderate caffeine use can cause insomnia and sleep disturbances. Caffeine is sometimes known as the most popular drug in the world. We all need a little pick me up and if you had a bad night's sleep, you definitely may need that shot of espresso. If you are craving a vanilla latte for your late lunch, this may be contributing to any sleep problems.

The half-life of caffeine (time taken for the body to eliminate one-half of the caffeine) varies widely among people, depending on factors such as age, body weight, pregnancy status, medication intake and liver health.

In healthy adults, the half-life of caffeine is approximately 5 to 6 hours. So, drinking coffee or soda at 2:00 p.m. leaves caffeine your body at work until around 8:00 p.m. This can affect your sleep — the caffeine is still doing its job. So before you drink that soda with your dinner at 7 p.m., consider that it may keep you up past midnight if you're not careful.

Try replacing late night coffee with chamomile tea or swap soda with club soda — add some lemon juice for more flavor.

The Nation Sleep Foundation also advised, “Because caffeine is a stimulant, most people use it after waking up in the morning or to remain alert during the day. While it is important to note that caffeine cannot replace sleep, it can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production.”

Avoiding Eating Heavily Before Bedtime. Some people become extremely hungry before bed because maybe you didn't eat enough during the day. For most people, the problem with eating at night is not that your metabolism switches to storing calories as fat at night, but instead, weight gain is caused by the unhealthy habits that often accompany bedtime snacking.

A heavy meal may cause acid reflux (heartburn), which may keep you awake. Who can fall asleep with that burning sensation that is heartburn? Consider, a mug of warm milk — milk contains tryptophan, also found in turkey and eggs, which promotes sleep. Consuming high carb or sugary foods including phish food ice cream before bed will significantly hinder your ability to catch some zs. It makes sense because believe it or not chocolate contains caffeine.

Your standard Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, for instance, contains about 12 milligrams of caffeine, or the same amount as three cups of decaffeinated coffee.

Other Foods to Avoid Before Bed:

  • High fatty foods such as cheeseburgers (sorry McDonald's drive-through)
  • Fried food including french fries and ketchup (ketchup is actually a highly acidic condiment, which can give you that heartburn as notated above)
  • Energy drinks (DUH — we'll save our wings for morning)
  • High sugar cereals (Although Lucky Charms are pleasing to the eyes, they are not pleasing for your rest)
  • Hot peppers
  • Spicy food
  • Dried fruit
  • Pizza (contains tomatoes that increase chances of heartburn)
  • Peppermint
  • Raw onions

Eat This Not That, an online resource for food swaps and smart nutrition filled with tips, tricks, and recipes to get what you want out of life explained, “While you shouldn't go to bed starving (that presents its own body-busting problems, like depleting your lean muscle storage), you also shouldn't hit the sack completely stuffed.

“When you eat a large meal before bed, your body is working to digest it long into the night—and if your body is still worked up, so are you. The later you fall asleep, the less rest you'll get, and you'll wake up feeling groggy and more likely to reach for calorie-dense items.”

What they (and BackerNation) are saying is that if you are hungry before bed, don't feel condemned to go to bed starving, rather consider a lighter alternative to those late-night stomach growls.

If milk, turkey, or eggs don't do it for you there are other options to consider.

Foods to Eat Before Bed:

  • Cherries
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Jasmine rice
  • Fortified cereal
  • Almonds
  • Chamomile, lemon, or passionflower tea
  • Cottage cheese
  • Spinach
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Peanut butter (on whole grain bread)

Don't Self-Medicate with Alcohol. It's worth stating that alcohol impairs the quality of sleep. Research found that a glass of bourbon or vodka mixed with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the number of time women spent awake during the night by 15 minutes. It also reduced nightly sleep time by 19 minutes and diminished one's overall quality of sleep. Although you may think getting a nice buzz would relax you, it actually metabolizes quickly in your system and causes you to wake up multiple times during the night.

We at BackerNation love to eat and on special occasions, enjoy a nice glass of wine — BUT (and this is a big but), it's all about moderation and choices. Read and reread the above text so you can choose the best late night snack option for you in order to get a good night's rest. 

Last change: January 29, 2019