A lot of us wish we got more sleep. In fact, Pinterest declared sleep as one of 2019’s top health trends. But with work, family, school, and social obligations, those precious Zzz’s are often sacrificed in order to get more done.
Another common habit that can get in the way of our body’s ability to fall asleep? Late-night snacking.
If you like to grab a handful of chips or cuddle up with a bowl of ice cream, the ingredients in your favorite foods before bedtime might be messing with your sleep cycle.
Late-night snacking with the wrong foods may increase your:
- insulin, making your blood sugar go haywire and impacting your ability to fall and stay asleep
- cortisol levels, the stress hormone that can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep
- reflux symptoms, indigestion, and heartburn, which interfere with sleep
One company is hoping to disrupt this cycle by combining ice cream, a favorite nighttime snack, with more ingredients that may help promote sleep and less of the ones that disrupt it.
Functional food start-up Nightfood is set to release Nightfood Ice Cream in February, writing that it’ll give consumers a “better nighttime snack for late night cravings.” And if you can polish off a pint of ice cream in one sitting, this may be your new best friend.
The calorie content in one pint of Nightfood ice cream ranges from 280 to 400. That’s a significant reduction in calories compared to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Cold Stone. Plus, fewer calories means less sugar. Not to mention Nightfood packs more protein than other brands.
Less sugar and more protein may help you sleep better — compared to higher fat and sugar that can interfere with sleep — but what is it about the other ingredients that make this ice cream sleep-friendly?
What makes Nightfood Ice Cream sleep-friendly?
According to Dr. Eddie Fatakhov, several ingredients in the product have a synergistic effect on sleep:
- digestive enzymes
- protein and fiber
- reduced sugar
First up, glycine is an important amino acid that our body produces naturally and is also an important neurotransmitter.
“There are several showing how glycine helps improve sleep and insomnia, including one that showed it helps with sleep onset,” he explains. Additionally, Fatakhov says glycine helps the body make more serotonin, another hormone and neurotransmitter, that has positive effects on sleep.
“Magnesium helps the body maintain appropriate levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that helps in promoting sleep,” he explains.
Plus, Fatakhov says magnesium may also help:
- regulate your body’s melatonin
- reduce anxiety symptoms that can prevent you from falling asleep
- stabilize blood sugar
More on magnesiumMagnesium doesn’t just help you get to sleep, it also supports deep, restful sleep. If you aren’t craving ice cream, try these magnesium-rich foods.
Digestive enzymes are also on the ingredient list, which Fatakhov says can help aid in digestion. “This may prevent you from having reflux or indigestion before going to sleep compared to eating traditional ice cream,” he explains.
The addition of protein and fiber can help with satiety and the feeling of fullness, which may reduce hunger pains that can get in the way of falling asleep.
Additionally, the promise of less sugar can help prevent insulin spikes, which Fatakhov says decreases cortisol.
What other foods can help you get to sleep?
As a medical doctor and weight loss expert, Fatakhov says this is a great alternative for people that eat ice cream before they go to sleep but want a healthier substitute.
“This is also a great alternative as a sleep aid for people who prefer not to take prescription medications or supplements for sleep,” he adds.
We know not everyone’s into ice cream. If you’re looking for other sleepy time food ideas, Fatakhov recommends:
- jujube, a fruit with flavonoids that may help insomnia
- hummus, made from chickpeas, packs a punch of vitamin B to support the production of melatonin
- decaf green tea, containing L-theanine, which may improve the quality of sleep
Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.