If you’re like many of us, you’re a little hungry when bedtime rolls around. Although you know you shouldn’t eat a big meal just before retiring for the night, you need something in your tummy before you can fall asleep.
Whether your bedtime is closer to 8:00 pm or 2:00 am, choosing the wrong snack can keep you from getting the sleep you need.
In my work as a freelance editor I work with interesting professionals from all walks of life, and one of my favorites is certified clinical sleep educator Terry Cralle, RN, MS. Terry writes extensively on sleep-related issues, and I’ve learned so much about every aspect of sleep from working on her manuscripts.
Terry is the co-author (with sleep psychologist W. David Brown, PhD) of Snoozby and the Great Big Bedtime Battle, a groundbreaking nonfiction picture book for children about sleep health and wellness. Her latest book for adults shares recent research on sleep and strategies for improving sleep to enhance career and personal success.
I asked Terry to share some healthy and delicious bedtime snacks, and she came up with three that aren’t always on the list when late night hunger strikes: chickpeas, kiwifruit and tart cherry juice.
Try these late-night snacks tonight and get better sleep!
I can’t get enough of these tasty little legumes, which are also a good source of tryptophan. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are chockfull of vitamin B6, which our bodies need to make melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone that is triggered by darkness and controls our sleep and wake cycles. Chickpeas also contain choline, an important and versatile nutrient that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.
During the day, I sprinkle them in my salad, add them to soups, and pop them, roasted and spiced, like jellybeans – but my absolute favorite is to eat them as hummus on a whole-grain cracker or a cucumber slice for a late-night snack.
The bonus benefit is that chickpeas are easier to digest than many other legumes, and it is claimed that hummus/chickpea consumption relates to weight control, blood glucose and insulin response, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
According to numerous studies, this cute little fruit (also known as Chinese gooseberry) contains many medicinally useful compounds, including vitamins C, K, E and potassium, as well as serotonin. They are also a nutrient dense food, meaning they are high in nutrients and low in calories – perfect for a midnight snack.
In one study, after four weeks of eating two kiwifruits one hour before bedtime, subjects ages 20 to 55 had a significant increase in both total sleep time and “sleep efficiency,” which is the ratio of the total time spent asleep in a night compared to the total amount of time spent in bed. The study concluded, “Kiwifruit consumption may improve sleep onset, duration, and efficiency in adults with self-reported sleep disturbances.”
Their small black seeds and fuzzy brown peel are edible, and the fiber of the peel helps to detox your intestinal tract. The bonus benefit is that it is claimed the bioactive substances in three kiwis a day can lower blood pressure more than one apple a day.
Several studies have shown the sleep-enhancing benefits of drinking tart cherry juice: In one trial of seven adults ages 59 to 77 with insomnia, sleep time was increased an average of 85 minutes as compared to a placebo.
In another study, 20 volunteers who consumed tart cherry juice concentrate for seven days had significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency. The study found that “consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep.”
The bonus benefit is that tart cherry juice concentrate, specifically, seems to have the highest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities compared to frozen, canned, or dried cherries.
So the next time you’re feeling snacky before going to bed, reach for one of these sleep-inducing power foods!
Do you snack in the evening? What do you reach for when you’re hungry at bedtime? What helps you to get better sleep? Share your favorite healthy guilt-free snacking pleasure in the comments below, and here’s to a good night’s sleep!