Are you a late night snacker or a midnight fridge raider? Does the whole family join in? While you might be tempted to dish out late-night bowls of ice cream or make popcorn at midnight, your body needs
several hours to digest a large snack, and that can disturb sleep.
Worse, you could all feel groggy the next day, even if you didn't wake up in the middle of the night. A study in the journal Nutrients found that eating a bedtime snack can be a positive thing, but it depends on the foods eaten.
As a rule, you should try to avoid eating a late night snack unless you're truly hungry since midnight cravings can sometimes be from boredom or anxiety, not hunger.
But if you're going to have a snack, here are the five worst foods to eat before sleeping:
The culprit: High fat foods cause acid reflux. “Many people don't realize that certain foods like cake have a lot of fat, but it's somewhat hidden by all the sugar it's paired with," said Julie Stefanski, a nutritionist at Leg Up Farm, a non-profit therapy center in Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania. “Any food at all will increase acid production, but high fat foods can especially increase reflux problems at night."
Replace with: Cheese. “Cheese is my go-to food if I am physically hungry in the middle of the night," said Stefanski. Pair cheese with a few whole-grain crackers.
2. Ice cream
The culprit: Dairy can cause upset stomach. Dairy products can be troublesome for some people if they upset the stomach. Even if dairy doesn't bother you, ice cream isn't the best choice for a late-night bite. It's heavy, fatty, and may sit in your tummy like a brick, keeping you up.
Replace with: Low-fat yogurt. The yogurt pairs proteins with carbs, and because it's lighter, the stomach has to work less digesting it than ice cream, explained Stefanski. That means less chance of a belly ache in the middle of the night. If you're not a fan of yogurt, or dairy doesn't sit well, try frozen grapes or cherries.
3. Citrus fruit
The culprit: Citrus is a natural diuretic. Certain fruits, like citrus, make you urinate more frequently. Eat those before bed, and you could be up several times during the night running to the bathroom, said Rebecca Lewis, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh, a healthy meal delivery service. “What you eat before bedtime has a big impact on the quality of your night's sleep," says Lewis. “Eating the right foods can be the difference between being wide awake, tossing and turning, and falling fast asleep."
Replace with: Toast with nut butter. Carbs and protein are the trick to feeling satisfied and able to doze off.
The culprit: Tomato sauce has acids. A good tomato sauce can make or break a slice of pizza, but the acid can lead to an unhappy stomach. Especially if you add a sprinkle of spicy red pepper flakes. Not only can acidic foods (and their close cousin, spicy foods) leave you with indigestion as your body rejects the zingy or acidic pizza, they may move quickly through the digestive system, leading us to run to the bathroom, said Lewis.
Replace with: Protein. Consider deli turkey, which has tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid found in poultry, or leftover grilled chicken, which can soothe hunger without being so tempting that you want to keep eating, says Stefanski.
The culprit: Caffeine can keep you awake. It may not be as bad as drinking a cup of midnight of joe, but chocolate has traces of caffeine that can affect your sleep. Caffeine Informer reports half of some high-end chocolate bars contain 26mg of caffeine, almost as much as the amount in 12 ounces of caffeinated soda. Some contain even more. So it's a good idea to skip chocolate before bed if you want to snooze soundly.
Replace with: A granola bar, a handful of granola, or trail mix. Packed with protein, crunch and sweetness, granola provides a satisfying and healthy snack. “Whatever snack you choose, get out one serving and put it in your hand or in a bowl. Eating out of a box when sleepy may lead to downing an entire box of crackers or cookies," said Stefanski. Remember, the snack you pick could spell the difference between staring at the ceiling or snoozing sweetly.
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