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Do Bedtime Snacks Help You Sleep?

by Jimmy Leonard | Updated 09 Dec 2023

Sueño Labs does not provide medical advice. See our terms and disclaimers.

Bedtime snacks laid out beside a bed
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A heavy meal right before bed is undoubtedly a bad idea for your sleep, but a light snack may actually help you doze off. Ask any toddler who can’t go to bed without a quick bowl of yogurt or cereal.

We recently polled our TikTok followers (#science) and found that 78% don’t have a snack before bed. Are they missing out?

Here’s how to choose wisely when it comes to snacks before bed.

Bedtime Snacks and Sleep

Digestion and Sleep Quality Don't Mix

Your body’s natural circadian rhythm is to calm down and slow down before bed. Hormones like melatonin signal to your brain that it’s time to catch some Z’s.

The problem with eating a big meal is that it does the opposite. Essentially, your body needs to wake up and kick it into gear in order to digest and process food. Your sleepy body has no immediate need for an energy boost, so the calories you consume end up getting stored as fat and wreaking havoc on your metabolism and blood sugar levels. In a perfectly ideal situation, you would wake up ready for a huge breakfast that would power you through the day, instead of what a lot of people do — skip breakfast because they’re full from late-night snacking.

Most experts agree that you should leave about 2-3 hours between your last meal and when you hit the sack.

Healthy Bedtime Snacks

But, sometimes, you’re too hungry to fall asleep. Literally starving — you know the feeling? Whether it’s because you worked late or didn’t eat enough for dinner or you simply haven’t eaten in hours, the whole “my stomach is growling too loud for me to sleep” phenomenon is real.

This is often the case for little kids. Their stomachs are small and they simply can’t go very long without eating. Even if they ate dinner two hours ago, they’re legitimately hungry again before bed. Trying to sleep on an empty stomach is not restful. Your body will be searching for nutrients, and the loud hunger pangs will prevent your brain from going into a deep sleep.

As with most things in life, moderation is key. A healthy snack can relieve your hunger without giving your body too much to handle before bed. The idea is to choose something nutrient-packed, high in protein and low in caffeine, sugar, and saturated fat. Some options:

  • Yogurt with berries
  • Peanut butter
  • Vegetables and hummus
  • Nuts and seeds
  • High-fiber bread

Avoid potato chips, ice cream, and late-night coffee, as well as anything heavy that will just sit in your stomach, like late-night tacos or a cheeseburger and fries. It’s also best to avoid spicy foods right before bed.

Try It: Adjusting Your Eating Habits

If you’re a no-snacker and find that you frequently wake up in the middle of the night, try a light, high-protein munchie 30 minutes before bed. You might find that it helps you sleep solidly until morning.

On the other hand, if you’re overeating before bed and are feeling the heartburn when you lie down, try shifting your dinner earlier in the evening. If that’s not possible, eat a hearty afternoon snack so you’re less hungry for dinner and don’t overdo it.

And just because we said no dessert right before bed, that doesn’t stop you from having ice cream for breakfast.

Jimmy Leonard

Jimmy Leonard

Jimmy is a marketing content strategist and copywriter who moonlights as the editor of Sueño Labs. He definitely has a sweet tooth and accepts the challenge to finish all the ice cream well before bedtime.

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