If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, we have a “prescription” you’re going to love.
It turns out a hidden case of hunger could be behind your inability to get to sleep, or stay that way. And what you choose for a bedtime snack can help you sleep better.
Our bodies produce two important hormones that regulate our appetite, leptin and gherlin. When we need fuel to function, gherlin sends out the signal that we’re hungry so we will eat. And then leptin follows up with the message that we’re full, so we stop eating.
The two hormones work like a see-saw, when one goes up, the other goes down. So if hunger is behind your sleep troubles, choosing the right bedtime snack could keep the gherlin at bay longer.
The best snacks to help you sleep better
But the benefits don’t end there. Choose wisely and that same delicious snack can deliver even more slumber support.
Following are our top five picks for the perfect bedtime snacks to help you sleep better.
A small handful of nuts can work better than the Sandman. Packed with protein, fiber and good fats, nuts help you feel fuller longer. Which means no waking up to root through the refrigerator searching for a midnight snack.
Almonds contain more fiber than most nuts, so that full feeling lasts even longer. In one study snacking on them effectively curbed volunteer’s appetites without causing them to gain weight. Plus almonds are an excellent source of magnesium, which is essential for a good night’s sleep.
Make that bedtime snack walnuts and you’ll be stocking up on tryptophan. Tryptophan is the amino acid which gives turkey its sleep-inducing reputation. It helps your body produce serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that help you sleep. And, according to researchers at the University of Texas, walnuts are a good source of melatonin on their own.
You can thank the combination of tryptophan and calcium for cheese’s ability to help you sleep better. The protein in cheese helps produce sleep-promoting tryptophan. And then the calcium helps your body process and use the amino acid more efficiently.
Not a cheese fan? No problem, any dairy product will work. Try Greek yogurt or a classic glass of warm milk.
When your blood sugar drops, and your insulin levels are at their lowest, your body starts pumping out the hunger hormone gherlin. And that empty tummy feeling can keep you from getting to sleep, or staying asleep.
While a snack like chips or a cookie will temporarily satisfy your hunger, it can backfire on you. Simple carbs cause your blood sugar to spike. Your body reacts by pumping out a jolt of insulin which sends your glucose levels plummeting. And suddenly you’re starving again.
Popcorn, on the other hand, is a whole grain food and an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. Which means it’s digested more slowly, providing a steady release of glucose into your blood stream.
In other words, indulging in some air or stove popped popcorn with your late-night movie could help you sleep better all night long.
Packed with plenty of protein and fiber, a small bowl of hot oatmeal makes a great bedtime snack. It can keep you feeling fuller longer, delaying the release of gherlin to help you sleep better.
In one study when volunteers received either cold cereal or oatmeal to eat, those folks who ate oatmeal felt satisfied far longer. They reported a much bigger drop in hunger and a significant decrease in their desire to eat, compared to the regular cold cereal eaters.
Whole grains such as oatmeal take longer to digest, driving away hunger longer. But they also help move tryptophan to your brain where it can help you drift off to sleep.
5. Herbal tea:
Grandma was right, there’s nothing like a steaming cup of herbal tea to help you slip off to sleep. And while any caffeine-free tea can be soothing, chamomile and passion fruit are especially helpful for combatting insomnia.
Chamomile contains the bioflavonoid apigenin, which experts say is a natural anxiety soother. And passion flower increases your GABA levels, which in turn lowers brain cell activity to help you relax. Plus, both teas contain compounds that researchers say can bind with receptors in your brain to produce a mild sedative effect so you sleep better.
Stop tossing and turning, and staring at the ceiling hoping for sleep. Pick the perfect bedtime snack, and you can finally get the good night’s sleep you deserve.