When it comes to good health, factors like diet, physical activity, stress, and sleep are all connected.
That said, it’s not surprising that what you eat can affect your nighttime rest.
While the foods you eat throughout the day may have some impact on your sleep, your best chance to snack your way to better shuteye is just before you turn in.
Eating the right foods (or combination of foods) in the evening hours could mean the difference between fitful and restful sleep.
Find out why and how foods can help you sleep, plus 15 bedtime snacks that may help send you snoozing.
The link between foods and sleep comes down to what’s in what you eat.
According to a
For some people, a racing mind or feelings of anxiety are the cause of insomnia.
If you’ve ever heard that turkey makes you sleepy, you’re probably familiar with the effects of tryptophan. This amino acid converts to serotonin and melatonin, which both help the body relax.
Just like some foods can promote sleep, others can disrupt it.
You probably know that foods like coffee and energy drinks aren’t great nightcaps due to caffeine and common energizers like ginseng and yerba mate.
These aren’t the only choices to avoid before bed.
Eating spicy or acidic foods shortly before bed may cause indigestion or acid reflux, which could keep you tossing and turning.
Another culprit is sugary foods.
“Eating foods high in sugar right before bed could make you feel sleepy, making it easier to fall asleep, but will also increase the chances of a restless night’s sleep,” says Kelsey Lorencz, RDN and founder of Graciously Nourished.
This is due to a sharp rise in blood sugar that releases insulin and other hormones to help bring blood sugar back down. This hormonal activity can disrupt sleep.
When hunger strikes at night, head to the kitchen for any of these pro-sleep snacks. Just note that eating too close to climbing into bed could backfire.
“Do your best to avoid eating close to bedtime,” says Rebecca Robbins, PhD, sleep expert for Oura sleep tracking devices. Robbins recommends finishing a snack at least one hour before hitting the hay.
Tart cherry juice smoothie
You might not like the mouth-puckering taste of tart cherry juice on its own, but using it in a smoothie with yogurt and a lower-glycemic sweetener like maple syrup can add a bit of appeal.
Pro tip: Sprinkle in some flaxseeds for extra omega-3 fats.
Smoked salmon cream cheese rollups
Salmon contains the highest omega-3’s of most fish in the sea. Since these healthy fats may improve sleep efficiency, it’s a good idea to let them swim into your diet pre-bedtime.
Try spreading a layer of cream cheese on a tortilla and topping with smoked salmon. Then roll it and slice it into bite-sized pieces.
Whole grain toast with peanut butter
Keep it simple at bedtime with a tablespoon of peanut butter on whole-grain toast.
“This magnesium-rich snack will help keep you full throughout the night without spiking your blood sugar,” says Lorenz.
You might associate oatmeal with breakfast, but don’t discount it as a nighttime snack! Lorenz recommends a bowl of oats with berries before bed.
“Oats are a good source of tryptophan, which helps your body to produce melatonin to support a natural sleep cycle,” she says. “Sweeten oatmeal with berries for a fiber-rich, sweet bedtime snack that will produce a gradual rise and fall in blood sugar while you snooze.”
It’s also a good idea to add a handful of walnuts to boost your omega-3 fatty acids and protein, plus they can help prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low.
Tuna cucumber bites
Canned tuna may be a humble snack, but it contains plenty of sleep-promoting omega-3s. It’s also a source of vitamin B6, which assists in the production of melatonin.
Mix some with a little mayo and spread it on cucumber slices for a light, crunchy snack.
Sweet dreams are made of… kiwi? It’s possible!
Handful of pistachios
Go nuts to go to sleep! According to a
Try snacking on a handful an hour or so before bed.
Cashew trail mix
Like pistachios, cashews are rich in melatonin. Plus, they boast another bonus: They’re a good source of magnesium.
Create a trail mix with cashews, dried cranberries, almonds, or any of your favorite nuts and dried fruits.
Avo toast makes a snack that’s both filling and potentially sleep-inducing.
Avocados’ magnesium and potassium content are a one-two punch for promoting rest. Some
Spinach egg bites
Spinach and eggs may be a powerful combo for better sleep. The magnesium in spinach promotes relaxation, while its vitamin B6 is a co-factor in converting tryptophan to serotonin. Eggs, meanwhile, are high in melatonin.
To make spinach egg bites, follow these steps:
- Whisk 6 eggs, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt.
- Stir in ¾ cups of cooked spinach.
- Divide among greased muffin cups.
- Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until set.
Almond butter crackers
Like cashews and pistachios, almonds are another nut with bedtime benefits. They contain melatonin and magnesium to contribute to better rest.
Enjoy a schmear of almond butter on whole grain crackers for a little something creamy and crunchy before bed.
Chamomile tea with warm milk
“Drinking chamomile tea before bed is a great way to reduce anxiety symptoms and support a good night of sleep,” says Lorenz. Chamomile is particularly rich in the antioxidant apigenin, which works like an antidepressant and antianxiety agent to inhibit monoamine oxidases (MAO’s).”
According to a 2022 study on animal models, inhibiting MAO increases the level of monoamines, like serotonin, in the brain, which is associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms.
Add a splash of warm milk to your steaming cup for a soothing, creamy texture and a bit of healthy fat.
Tart cherry juice mocktail
Alcohol can disrupt your sleep, but a mocktail of tart cherry juice, OJ, and sparkling water makes an ideal nighttime tonic.
Warm smoothie bowl
“A smoothie with yogurt, spinach, fruit, and peanut butter can be a great magnesium-rich bedtime snack,” Lorenz recommends.
Even better: Try it as a warm smoothie bowl by heating it up in the microwave for a minute or so. You may find the cozy warmth especially calming.
Cherry pumpkin seed smoothie
Get creative with your smoothie-making with a mix of yogurt, pumpkin seeds, and cherries.
“The magnesium from the pumpkin seeds, vitamin D from the yogurt, and melatonin found in sweet cherries will support a good night’s rest,” says Lorenz.
Coffee and tea
It’s probably clear why caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea aren’t your ideal bedfellows.
Caffeine is well known for its stimulating effects. Besides their caffeine content, acidic beverages like coffee can also cause nighttime heartburn in more sensitive people.
With their high sugar content, sweets like cookies, pastries, and cakes may disrupt your insulin levels, leading to a restless night.
Downing an energy drink too close to turning in won’t do your sleep any favors.
These beverages often contain caffeine and herbal stimulants designed to keep you awake, not put you to sleep.
Spicy or heavy foods
Save the fiery curry and zippy salsa for lunch or dinner time—not bedtime. Eating spicy foods stimulates the production of stomach acid, which can result in acid reflux that disrupts rest.
Steer clear of heavy, high calorie foods like fried food, red meats, and more than a small serving of cheese. These take time to digest and could cause indigestion if eaten just before laying down.
If you routinely struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor or a sleep expert to rule out the possibility of a sleep disorder.
In the meantime, you can find helpful information on sleep disorders from the National Sleep Foundation.
If anxiety is what keeps you up at night, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers numerous resources.
Get the facts with these commonly asked questions.
What are the best foods to eat for good sleep at night?
Everyone may respond somewhat differently to various foods, but some of the best to eat before bed include:
- tree nuts, like pistachios and almonds
- tart cherries or their juice
- oatmeal with berries and nuts
- chamomile tea with milk
What foods should you avoid to sleep well at night?
Before bed, it’s best to steer clear of high-caffeine foods and beverages, spicy or heavy foods, and anything high in simple sugars.
What foods can babies, toddlers, and kids eat at night to sleep better?
If your baby is eating solid foods, try offering pureed magnesium-rich veggies like spinach or spoon-feeding them a smoothie. Toddlers can snack on foods cut into appropriate portion sizes (though they should not eat whole nuts, since they’re a choking hazard). Older kids are free to eat any of the foods on the list above.
What chemicals in foods make you sleepy?
Not all chemicals in food are bad! Melatonin, serotonin, and tryptophan have all been linked to promoting feelings of sleepiness.
What are the best foods for insomnia and anxiety at night?
A warm beverage may be the best choice to soothe anxiety and prevent insomnia. Like a warm bath, the sensation of heat often helps wash away the worries of the day.
Choose chamomile tea for its calming antioxidants, and add a splash of milk if you prefer a creamy taste. The extra fat will help too!
What fruits can help you sleep at night?
Kiwi and tart cherries have the strongest body of research to show their sleep-inducing effects.
The right snacks before bed could make a significant difference to your rest – but remember that an overall pattern of healthy eating is important too.
“Good nutrition is tied to good sleep – eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and staying hydrated all contribute to our general health and our sleep health,” says Robbins.
Choose your bedtime snacks wisely to set yourself up for sleep success.
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