The ‘rule’ seems to be this: eat dinner early (ideally by 7 pm) and hit the sack five hours later. While this is not a bad idea, snacking before bed should not be seen as something that’s just plain bad because there are ways to go about it. If it has been a few hours after dinner, you could consider a snack. A light snack makes sense because if you sleep hungry, your sleep may not be perfect.
Anything that is high on fat or grease is bad for you anyway, and pretty bad before bed. You need to eat a snack that will boost your metabolism. Likewise, salty stuff, spicy and acidic snacks (like pickles, tomato sauce, oranges, etc.) may cause heartburn. And lay off that ice-cream tub because it will up your sugar levels and you may end up feeling a little too alert.
The traditional food before bedtime, like a glass of warm milk, actually work. Most warm liquids will make you sleepy as it will increase your body temperature. Add to that the fact that milk contains tryptophan and calcium, makes it one of the best ‘snack’ before bed.
If you are looking at a number, any snack that gives you about 200 calories before bed is a suitable food. It should be a combination of carbohydrate and some protein.
What makes you calm before bed?
As we have already mentioned, Tryptophan (and amino acid) helps you sleep by producing serotonin, which is the feel-good hormone of the body. It works best when there is not too much protein in your body. Protein lifts you up with the amino acid tyrosine, a reason why you should lay off protein-heavy snack before bed. If you want tryptophan to work best, eat it an hour before sleep, as that is the amount of time it takes to reach the brain. Best sleep snacks: whole grains and seeds.
Oats and cherries, which contain Melatonin are good sleep snacks. Melatonin is a compound that is affected by light and regulates your internal sleeping clock.
Calcium is another good friend of sleep as it converts tryptophan into melatonin. In fact, calcium deficiency interrupts sleep. Skimmed milk and yogurt are great calcium sources.
Magnesium is another element that decreases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and helps you sleep better. It allows muscle contraction, keeping late night cramping at bay. Almonds and bran cereal are great sources.
Without enough potassium, muscle cramping and Restless Leg Syndrome may bug your sleep. Eat a banana, or better still a sweet potato (you could grill it) and sleep well.
Good sleep menu
- Whole wheat crackers with hummus
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Cherry smoothie made in skim milk
- Put some oatmeal and mix with sliced banana. Heat and eat.
- Popcorn (no butter please)
- Bran cereal with soy milk
- Low-fat yogurt with ground flaxseed
- Whole wheat toast with almond butter
- Chamomile tea