Ah, the late-night munchies. We’ve all been there, right? Standing in front of the open fridge when we should be sleeping, debating whether we should cave in and crack open our secret candy stash, or dive into the leftovers set aside for lunch the next day.
Chances are that you’ve heard how some foods help you sleep, while others do the exact opposite. And you have to know by now that insomnia is one of the worst things for your health and happiness.
Losing out on sleep can decrease your ability to concentrate and solve problems, cause weight gain and early signs of aging skin, and even increase your chance of developing health issues like heart disease and diabetes. Yikes!
All of this can make snacking when you should be sleeping seem like a pretty horrible idea, and in some ways, that’s absolutely the case. But the good news is there are ways to deal with late-night cravings in the healthiest, most sleep-friendly way, so you’re not left tossing and turning the night away.
Let’s take a look at what effect midnight snacking can have and how you can satisfy your cravings without losing out on any rest.
Midnight Snacking and Your Health
Whether you had an early dinner or you just didn’t eat enough during the day, late-night snacking is one of the more common issues you face when it comes to not being able to get to sleep (or stay that way).
While it’s normal to have a craving or two for something yummy at bedtime, eating late at night does have some less-than-optimal effects on getting a good night’s sleep, and can cause a few insomnia-inducing concerns.
And it is true that going to bed with an empty stomach can keep you wide awake. Of course, eating right before bedtime can also create some frustrating sleep disturbances.
Our body’s job is to digest the food that we eat, which requires energy to burn and can, in turn, keep us awake when we should be catching some Z’s. And then there’s the possibility of having to deal with indigestion and heartburn late at night. Ugh!
So, how can you satisfy your cravings for a bedtime snack, without wreaking havoc on your ability to get the high-quality sleep that you need? Check out these tips for what you should (and shouldn’t!) rely on for the best midnight snacks.
Midnight Snacks to Avoid
Some of the worst foods that you can eat before bedtime are those that are going to increase sleep disturbances and keep you awake when you should be sawing logs.
This can happen when you eat fatty foods that take too long to digest, spicy foods that can cause indigestion or heartburn, or sugary foods that create spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
Drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol can cause just as much trouble, thanks to increasing your level of alertness, like coffee or green tea does, or by waking you up multiple times in the middle of the night, the way a boozy nightcap tends to do.
Top Foods to Avoid at Bedtime
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Sugary foods
- Caffeinated beverages
- Alcoholic beverages
The Best Midnight Snacks for Better Sleep
On the flip side of the coin, there are some foods out there that make awesome pre-bed snacks, thanks to being easier to digest, being loaded with good-for-you ingredients, and actually encouraging the production of hormones that promote sleep when eaten at bedtime.
You should go for snacks that are chock-full of complex carbohydrates, as they help to release serotonin, which can calm you before bedtime. And also look for protein-rich foods that help you to feel fuller for longer.
Top Foods to Enjoy at Bedtime
- Low-salt nut and fruit mix
- Greek yogurt with granola
- High-fiber cereal and low-fat milk
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- Toast with avocado or almond butter
- Apple or banana slices with peanut butter
Top Midnight Snacking Tips
If you find yourself having trouble getting to sleep or turning to midnight snacking on a regular basis, your best bet is to follow these tips for sleep-friendly pre-bed snacking.
Be sure to keep your midnight snacks as light and small as possible, in order to avoid tossing and turning from your body’s digestion process. You should also give yourself at least 30 minutes between snacking and hitting the hay if you want to ward off heartburn or indigestion.
And don’t forget to drink water or caffeine-free tea with your snack to help you feel a bit more full with less food. Just be sure to not drink too much, or you might end up waking up over and over again for a trip to the bathroom throughout the night.
If you want to make sure you’re eating sleep-friendly snacks before bedtime, you might want to consider preparing your snacks in advance, which will help you to avoid grabbing something quick and less-than-healthy. We’re looking at you, Snickers lovers!
- Keep snacks small and light
- Wait 30 minutes between snacking and bed
- Don’t forget to brush your teeth after snacking
- Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time
9 Healthy Alternatives to Common Cravings
If you find yourself craving specific types of snacks at bedtime, you may find it hard to turn down the temptation of indulging. After all, it’s late, there’s nobody around to judge you, and what could it hurt just this once, right?
Well, the problem with that line of thinking is that midnight snacking can quickly become a habit that can be tough to break. So, if you want to make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you, it might be time for some changes.
Let’s look at the best alternatives to some of the most common late-night cravings...
1. Candy Bar Alternative
When you find yourself feeling tempted to raid your kid’s candy stash, try filling a dried date with a teaspoon of almond or peanut butter, and tossing in a few dark chocolate chips. There are only 100 calories in this healthier alternative to a Snickers bar and much less sugar, plus many people swear that dates are a dead-on replacement for caramel.
2. Potato Chips Alternative
Who hasn’t had trouble resisting a bag of deliciously salty potato chips? But if you’re looking to cut out calories and avoid grease and salt, you might want to try the lighter alternative of homemade kale chips. Just tear some kale leaves into small pieces, give them a quick toss in olive oil, pepper, and sea salt, and then bake them at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
3. Ice Cream Alternative
Ice cream has undone many diets and kept more of us awake and snacking than we’d ever like to admit. If you have a sweet tooth and head right to the freezer when the late-night munchies strike, try swapping your Ben and Jerry’s for a healthier version of ice cream. Just combine 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of your favorite berries, then blend and chill before enjoying.
4. French Fries Alternative
Ditch the drive-through run in your PJs and try a healthier alternative to those oh-so-addictive McDonald’s fries. Grab a sweet potato, slice it into thin strips, toss them in some olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste, and bake them at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. You’ll not only cut way back on the calories and grease of traditional fries, but you’ll also get the benefits of vitamins A, C, and B6, plus tons of fiber.
5. Brownies Alternative
When you’re craving an ooey, gooey brownie, it might seem as if nothing will do but the real-deal, calories, and sleep disturbances or not. But there are now some great healthier recipes for brownies that don’t pack anywhere near the massive calorie count as you’ll find in the ones Grandma used to make. You can make a batch ahead of time, bag them individually, and freeze them in preparation of a chocolate craving at bedtime, which will help you to keep your portion size under control.
6. Pizza Alternative
While it might be tempting to place a late-night pizza order, you can save yourself some time, money, calories, and wasted sleep by making your own healthier version at home. You can make individual pizzas in the microwave, using English muffins, by simply slicing them in half, adding some sugar-free tomato sauce, and a dash of part-skim mozzarella cheese. These come in way under the typical pizza calorie count and you just have to zap them for about 30 seconds to melt the cheese.
7. Pie Alternative
Love the thought of having a slice of warm apple pie right before hitting the hay, but worried about the calories and issues something so heavy could cause to your sleep quality? Try a quick, easy, and healthier alternative by simply coring an apple and placing it into a microwave-safe bowl, pouring some sugar-free apple juice into the core, and then zapping it for about a minute. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and viola! You’ve satisfied your need for apple pie, no crust or added calories required.
8. Second Dinner Alternative
If you find yourself feeling like you’re starving right before bedtime, due to a missed dinner or one that was too small to satisfy you, try giving your body what it needs without creating any sleep disturbances by making yourself a small sandwich with a couple of slices of turkey on a piece of whole grain bread. Not only will you feel full and ready to catch some Z’s, but the tryptophan in the turkey will also help you drift off even faster.
9. Salty Snacks Alternative
Who doesn’t love a big bowl of buttery popcorn when marathoning a Netflix series? But if you’re staying up late to catch just one more episode, and you plan on hitting the hay right after wolfing down a salty snack, you could find yourself having trouble getting to sleep. Try a more sleep-friendly alternative by crunching on some fat-free microwave popcorn and sprinkle a teaspoon of reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese on top for an added treat for your taste buds, without a massive punch to the calorie count.
Healthy and All-Natural Hacks for Better Sleep
Now that you know the best midnight snacks for getting a better night’s rest, you might want to take a look at some of these helpful hints for even more amazing sleep through other healthy habits.
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