A snack before bed can help you sleep better, especially if you find yourself waking up halfway through the night due to hunger pangs.
But what foods are you munching on? Do you indulge your sweet tooth with cookies and ice cream? Or do you opt for the salty fix of potato chips?
When it comes to late night snacking not all foods are created equal. Many foods can inhibit sleep, leading to a restless night tossing and turning; while others will have you happily dozing in no time.
Foods high in fat, sugar, and salt are a recipe for disaster when it comes to your sleep: Making it harder to fall asleep, and causing frequent nighttime awakenings.
Learn how to construct the perfect midnight snack by including these five key components.
5 Building Blocks Of The Ultimate Midnight Snack
1. Magnesium & Potassium
Two minerals — potassium and magnesium — go a long way in helping us get a restful night of sleep by promoting muscle relaxation.
Not only will they make it easier for you to get comfortable in bed, but they also help ease leg and other muscle cramps. (1)
While dark leafy greens and beans are packed with magnesium, they’re not exactly snack-time favorites.
Thankfully, certain nuts and seeds are equally rich in this mineral, such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, and cashews.
You can get your fill of potassium from sweet potatoes (the chips make an excellent substitute), as well as dried apricots, coconut water, and yogurt. (2)
Bananas, however, are ideal for a late night mineral fix: With 806 mg of potassium and 60 mg of magnesium per medium banana. (3)
5 Food Sources Of Magnesium & Potassium
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dried Apricots
- Pumpkin Seeds
The amino acid tryptophan, found in plant and animal proteins, is used to synthesize the brain chemical serotonin.
Serotonin plays an integral role in the sleep-wake cycle, and higher levels induce a feeling of calm and restfulness.
Meanwhile, low levels are associated with insomnia, depression and anxiety — all of which negatively impact sleep. (4)
Tryptophan can be found in a variety of foods, including dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Peanut butter and milk are two snacking favorites packed with this sleep-inducing amino acid.
5 Food Sources of Tryptophan
- Chia Seeds
3. Vitamin B6
Many of the neurotransmitters and hormones involved in our sleep/wake cycle rely on B vitamins for their synthesis and release.
Their influence on serotonin and melatonin is of particular importance when it comes to regulating our sleep. (5)
Vitamin B6 supplements are often prescribed as a treatment for restless leg syndrome — which causes discomfort in the legs and a consequent urge to move them to relieve it, often increasing in severity at night. (6)
Dark green veggies, fish, whole grains and legumes (such as chickpeas) are all excellent sources of B vitamins. A bedtime snack of hummus and whole grain crackers is the perfect way to get your fill.
5 Food Sources Of Vitamin B6
- Whole Grain Bread
- Bell Peppers
Theanine is another amino acid that has positive effects on sleep quality: increasing the time spent in REM sleep, reducing cortisol levels, and limiting nighttime awakenings. (7)
Readily available in the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, theanine increases the amount of dopamine and serotonin, while lowering the level of the stimulating brain chemical norepinephrine. (8)
Tea is the only natural source of theanine; however, it also contains caffeine which will counteract the effects. Always go for a decaffeinated option if sleep is your goal. (9)
Pro-Tip: Tea is the only natural source of theanine!
Melatonin is the primary hormone responsible for signalling to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Produced by the pineal gland under the direction of our circadian rhythms (body clock), melatonin gradually increases throughout the day and peaks at bedtime. It then remains at a high level until the next morning. (10)
You can buy melatonin supplements at the pharmacy or health food stores; however, this sleep-inducing hormone is also readily available in tart fruits (cherries and pineapples), as well as oats and walnuts. There is even chocolate that gives you an extra dose of melatonin.
Research has shown that drinking two glasses of tart cherry juice a day can increase your time spent asleep at night by 90-minutes. (11)
5 Food Sources Of Melatonin
- Tart Cherries
Snack Smarter, Sleep Sounder
You can combine the natural food sources of these five elements into countless delicious and satisfying midnight snacks designed to help you sleep.
Follow your taste buds and feel free to get creative when assembling these building blocks for better sleep. Of course, the tried-and-true warm glass of milk before bed remains a great option.