With the summer approaching, the day’s heat makes the body want to eat light or not at all. That’s when late-night hunger kicks in. Individuals can’t sleep because their stomachs won’t stop growling. Whatever the reason, the body needs something to eat to go back to sleep. The challenge is figuring out what’s quick, tasty, healthy, and can help promote sleep, as some foods contain compounds that can improve sleep.
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Late-Night Nutritious Snacks
There are several reasons for needing a late-night snack, and a healthy snack can be a good way to get some additional nutrients for the next day. Having small nutrient-rich snacks under 200 calories is fine. Individuals who regularly have late-night snacks should consider having prepared snacks to promote sleep and not inhibit sleep. Planning is the key to choosing snacks to help support healthy sleep and satisfy hunger.
Snacks To Consider
- Pumpkin contains tryptophan which contributes to sleep.
- They also contain essential nutrients zinc, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and magnesium.
- These can help combat illnesses related to inflammation.
- Bananas are a healthy source of dietary melatonin.
- In one study, individuals who ate a banana had an increase in serum melatonin levels two hours after eating.
- The potassium content of bananas can help inhibit muscle cramps, a problem some individuals have when trying to sleep.
Glass of Milk
- Warm or cold, a glass of milk before bed can help improve sleep.
- Milk contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help improve sleep quality.
- Sleep-inducing amino acids like tryptophan are also found in milk.
- Dairy milk is not the only type of milk shown to aid sleep.
- Soy milk is a good source of both melatonin and tryptophan.
- Plant-based milk made with nuts can confer the same benefits as whole nuts.
Milk and Cereal
- Individuals may reserve cereal for breakfast, but it can make a healthy late-night snack to promote sleep.
- One study found that high-glycemic carbs in many corn-based cereals before bed reduced the time it took to fall asleep.
- Limit portion size as the entire snack should be under 300 calories, especially for those with heartburn, as a heavy meal can exacerbate the problem.
- Dairy products contain calcium, a mineral that directly produces the sleep hormone melatonin and is a natural relaxant in the body.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
- Foods like peanut butter contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is converted into melatonin to promote sleepiness.
- Carbohydrates like bread and jelly help make tryptophan more available to the brain.
- Option for whole grain bread and natural peanut butter with no added sugars for added nutrition.
Yogurt with Fruit
- Plain yogurt with berries, chopped nuts, and honey.
- Yogurt provides a healthy source of calcium, which has been linked to better sleep.
- Be sure to read the labels, as some varieties contain added sugar.
Fruit and Nuts
- Fruit and nuts are great when hungry and tired.
- They provide nutritional benefits, including vitamins, minerals, protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber.
- They nourish, provide satisfaction, and help the body fall asleep.
- An apple with a handful of almonds, a banana, and pecans, or a pear with a few walnuts.
- One teaspoon of peanut butter on banana slices or dip apple slices in almond butter.
- If almond butter is too thick for dipping, microwave 1-2 tablespoons for 30 seconds until it’s soft enough to dip.
- Popcorn is a great snack that is low in calories.
- Three cups of air-popped popcorn have fewer than 100 calories and about 4 grams of fiber.
- Skip the butter and mix in dried spices for extra flavor.
Vegetables and Dip
- Craving something crunchy and low-calorie, fresh vegetables and dip.
- Any combination of raw carrots, broccoli florets, cucumber slices, celery, zucchini, peppers, and grape tomatoes can satisfy a rumbling stomach.
- Enhance the flavor with a plain low-fat cottage cheese dip, Greek yogurt, or hummus.
- When craving a sandwich, a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates from lean protein like turkey and whole grain bread with tomato, lettuce, and a splash of mayo and mustard can satisfy.
- Allow enough time to digest, as being too full can inhibit sleep.
- Top toasted healthy corn or pita chips with hummus, paprika, and red pepper for a crunchy and satisfying late-night snack to help the body fall asleep.
- Chickpeas, the primary ingredient in hummus, contain tryptophan.
Body In Balance
Bandín, C et al. “Meal timing affects glucose tolerance, substrate oxidation, and circadian-related variables: A randomized, crossover trial.” International Journal of Obesity (2005) vol. 39,5 (2015): 828-33. doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.182
Beccuti, Guglielmo, et al. “Timing of food intake: Sounding the alarm about metabolic impairments? A systematic review.” Pharmacological research vol. 125, Pt B (2017): 132-141. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2017.09.005
Behrouz, Sepide, et al. “The Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Immunomodulatory Effects of Camel Milk.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 13 855342. 12 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2022.855342
Gallant, Annette, et al. “Nutritional Aspects of Late Eating and Night Eating.” Current obesity reports vol. 3,1 (2014): 101-7. doi:10.1007/s13679-013-0081-8
Stobiecka, Magdalena, et al. “Antioxidant Activity of Milk and Dairy Products.” Animals: an open access journal from MDPI vol. 12,3 245. 20 Jan. 2022, doi:10.3390/ani12030245
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