Generally, you don’t want to eat too much right before bed, as it can negatively impact your sleep. But if you are going to snack after dinner, there are certain foods that are better than others—including some that just might help you get more (and better quality!) sleep.
So, if you’re looking for your bedtime snack to deliver some serious sleep-boosting benefits, what, exactly, should you eat?
Let’s take a look at five snacks to incorporate into your bedtime routine that may help you get a better night’s sleep.
Almonds are a healthy snack at any time of the day—but if you’re looking to improve your sleep, try snacking on them before bed.
“While almonds are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, and even protein, these tree nuts may actually contribute to a better night of sleep,” says Ashlee Van Buskirk, owner of Whole Intent, a Denver-based business that offers fitness and nutrition consulting. That’s because “almonds contain melatonin, a hormone that helps prepare your body for sleep.”
Melatonin can certainly support better sleep—but almonds have even more to contribute to a great night of rest than melatonin alone. “Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium, offering upwards of 19 percent of your daily value in just 1 ounce,” says Van Buskirk. Multiple studies have found that adequate magnesium levels can help improve a variety of sleep-related markers, including sleep time, sleep quality, and sleep latency (how easy it is to fall asleep).
Not a fan of almonds? Not to worry; there are plenty of other nuts to snack on at bedtime that will help you catch a great night of Zzz’s.
“Other tree nuts, like walnuts, pistachios, and cashews [also] offer good amounts of melatonin and magnesium,” says Van Buskirk.
Oatmeal may be a popular breakfast food, but if you’re looking to promote better sleep, oats may make an excellent bedtime snack, too. “Oats are also a well-known source of melatonin,” says Van Buskirk.
For extra help falling asleep, try cooking your oats in milk, which is rich in calcium—a must if you want to get your best sleep. “Calcium…aids in the brain’s use of tryptophan, which is essential for the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and the sleep/wake regulating chemical serotonin,” says sleep expert Dr. Kent Smith, president of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy. “Research has shown that calcium deficiency is linked to sleep disturbances, including poor or insufficient REM sleep.” Calcium also helps to lower blood pressure, which may also play a role in easing sleep disturbances.
Have leftover salmon from your lunch or dinner? If so, a few mouthfuls of those leftovers could make the perfect sleep-boosting snack. “There are several nutrients in fish—specifically omega-3s and vitamins B6 and D—that may impact our sleep,” says Rima Kleiner, MS, RD at Dish on Fish. “Omega-3s and vitamin D found in fatty fish—like salmon, tuna, and sardines—may help improve sleep quality and quantity.”
“The omega-3 DHA may boost better sleep by helping stimulate the hormone melatonin, a key hormone for promoting sleepiness,” continues Kleiner. “Vitamin D may help support a healthy circadian rhythm, which helps us feel sleepy at nighttime and alert during the day. And vitamin B6 also helps aid in the production of melatonin and serotonin—both of which help promote more restful sleep.”
Looking for a bedtime snack that’s quick and simple—but will still help you get a better night’s rest? Try grabbing a banana from your pantry.
Bananas are “rich in potassium and magnesium,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, nutritionist and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time. As mentioned, magnesium plays a vital role in improving sleep, while potassium can help alleviate any muscle cramps or tension, making it easier to relax—and easier to fall (and stay) asleep.
Not everyone likes to eat in the hours before bed. So if you fall under that umbrella, not to worry! You can still get plenty of sleep-supporting benefits with a bedtime cup of tea.
“Chamomile tea has long been associated with relaxing properties,” says Smith. That relaxation is thought to come from apigenin, a flavonoid that binds to receptors in the brain that help lower anxiety and induce sleep.
Nutrition tips to support a good night’s sleep
Want to make sure that your daily routine—and not just your bedtime snack—are helping you get your best sleep? Try following these tips:
- Keep caffeine intake to a minimum. There’s no need to nix your morning cup of coffee—but if you want to get a good night’s rest, make sure you’re keeping your caffeine intake to the AM hours. “As for caffeine…I suggest skipping it after noon,” says Young.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol might help you drift off to sleep—but it’s also likely to leave you tossing and turning all night. “While alcohol might make you sleepy, it can also reduce the quality of your sleep,” says Young. If you want to wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested, skip the evening drinks.
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet. While the right bedtime snack may help you get better sleep, no single food or ingredient is going to solve your sleeping issues. If you really want to support your overall sleep health, make sure to eat “a well-balanced and consistent diet rich in fruits and veggies,” says Van Buskirk. “This kind of diet will help ensure you have good amounts of essential vitamins and minerals—including those that can promote sleep.”