6 Perfect Bedtime Snacks


Maple-Walnut Oatmeal

You always hear that you shouldn’t eat before bedtime. But if you have trouble getting to sleep, a little snack can help. This is especially true if you’re hungry since an empty stomach can keep you awake.

What foods are best before bed? Small amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods. They’re easy to digest and raise your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that helps calm the brain so you can sleep. Complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • a piece of fruit or
  • some whole wheat crackers

are best because they are digested slowly. Avoid candy, cookies and other high sugar, simple carbs. These types of foods are quickly digested, releasing a jolt of sugar into your blood that can keep you awake.

Foods with tryptophan, an amino acid, are also a good choice. Tryptophan is used to make serotonin, which can then make melatonin, the hormone that tells your body to go to sleep. Most protein-containing foods have tryptophan but that doesn’t mean you should eat a steak before bed. A small amount of protein is all you need. And it’s best if that protein is combined with a little carbohydrate. Consider:

  • Milk. It contains both nutrients, which explains the old “warm milk before bed” advice.
  • Half a packet of instant oatmeal
  • Some cottage cheese
  • A slice of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter.

Whatever food you choose, keep the portion small. Too much of any type of food can interfere with sleep.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

5 Responses to “6 Perfect Bedtime Snacks”

  1. I used to follow this kind of advice. Eating something like any of those mentioned above would have me up in the middle of the night with a raging hunger and have me meaner than a wolverine in the moring. Since ditching grains and going fully paleo, my energy levels have soared, weight has melted away, body feels happy and light, and I feel satisfied all the time. I don’t need a snack at bed time or any other time of the day. Grab a turkey leg with the skin, an avocado, some coconut milk, a handful of almonds, a juicy steak!

  2. My favorite snack is 1 piece of whole wheat toast with a tbsp of all-peanut butter, a drizzle of honey and about 3 oz. of skim milk. Occasionally, I switch to a 1/2 orange and 1/2 banana.

  3. HI Really great article I caught this link on
    sparkpeople.com in their Hungry at Bedtime?
    blog. I do the 6 triscuit crackers sometimes,
    and i put cheese and peperoni on them it satisfies
    me and sometimes i don’t have a snack before Bed.
    I am into the don’t eat after 8:00pm thing but on Friday’s
    i think it is ok.

  4. Sounds good to me.

  5. Peppermint tea helps my stomach before bed. I think I am hungry but then i drink the tea and all is good.