We all battle sleep problems from time to time. Seasonal changes, health issues, and the “from infection to election” stress that we’re all battling right now can contribute to sleepless nights.
But for many folks, a hidden case of hunger is ALSO part of the mix. In fact, growling-gut insomnia is probably far more common than you realize.
But noshing late at night can be tricky. Pick the wrong snack, and you can kiss a good night’s sleep goodbye. The right one, however, can have you snoozing the night away in no time.
Here’s how it works.
Your body cranks out two vital hormones that regulate your appetite. They’re called ghrelin and leptin.
When you need to top up your “fuel” levels to keep things running, ghrelin sends out signals to tell you that you’re hungry, so you will eat. Then, when your energy reserves are sufficiently topped up, leptin takes over with the message that you’re satisfied, so you stop eating.
If this see-saw of hormones dips back towards the ghrelin when you’re trying to get some shuteye, falling asleep or staying asleep can be difficult. And lying awake in bed is the perfect set up for stress to kick in and send your thoughts spinning out of control.
Pick a bedtime snack to help you sleep better
A rumbling tummy can stand in the way of a good night’s sleep. But making the right choice for a midnight snack matters.
Foods high in caffeine such as coffee, soda, and chocolate can be overly stimulating when eaten too close to bedtime. Late-night spicy foods can kick off a mean case of heartburn as you’re trying to slip off to sleep.
And large snacks high in sugar and carbs can send your blood sugar skyrocketing, keeping your body from winding down for sleep.
The solution? Choosing the RIGHT bedtime snack to keep ghrelin at bay so you can slip off to sleep. But also one that isn’t overstimulating, so you stay that way.
Plus, pick the right one, and you could get an EXTRA sleep-supporting boost.
1. Herbal tea:
Turns out those “old wives” really DO know a thing or two. Their tales about a steaming cup of herbal tea helping you slip off to sleep are spot on. And while any caffeine-free tea can be soothing, chamomile and passionflower are especially helpful for combatting insomnia.
Chamomile contains the bioflavonoid apigenin, which experts say is a natural anxiety soother. And passionflower 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.
And either can help fill that little hole in your belly, driving off mild hunger pains.
A few small squares of cheese can boost your tryptophan and calcium levels. Your body can use part of the protein in the cheese to produce sleep-supporting tryptophan. And the calcium helps your body process and use the relaxing amino acid.
Don’t worry if you’re not a cheese fan. A small serving of any dairy product can do the trick. Another excellent choice, for example, is Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of tryptophan-filled chia seeds. Or you can even opt for the classic warm glass of milk.
A fistful of nuts can be the perfect remedy for a sleepless night. Nuts are stuffed full of protein, fiber, and good fats, which will leave you feeling full and satisfied longer.
Almonds are higher in fiber than most nuts, so that full feeling hangs around. In one study, snacking on almonds effectively curbed volunteer’s appetites without causing them to gain weight. Plus, they’re an excellent magnesium source, which is essential for a good night’s sleep.
Grab some walnuts, and you’ll be stocking up on tryptophan. Tryptophan is the amino acid we associate with that warm sleepy feeling after a good turkey dinner.
It helps your body produce serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that help you sleep. And researchers at the University of Texas say walnuts are a good source of melatonin on their own.
Pick pistachios for that late-night snack, and you’ll be stocking up on shuteye-promoting melatonin. Pistachios pack more of this sleep hormone than any other nut.
4. Tart cherry juice:
Tart cherry juice is another excellent source of melatonin. Plus, the cherry’s natural anti-inflammatory actions could help ease any aches and pains you’re battling. So it’s no surprise that research has shown it can help improve sleep.
Researchers recruited a small group of ladies over 50 who were battling insomnia. The study participants received an 8-ounce glass of tart cherry juice or a look-alike placebo for two weeks. Then after a two-week washout period, they were swapped to the other drink for two weeks.
One hundred percent of the volunteers saw significant improvements after receiving the cherry juice. They increased their sleep time by an incredible 84 minutes, and their sleep efficiency went up too.
Another similar randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study confirmed tart cherry is tops for fixing sleep problems. All 15 volunteers had significant improvement in the severity of their insomnia when compared to the placebo.
Don’t let pain, stress, or hidden hunger rob you of critical sleep. Grab the right bedtime snack and finally get the good night’s sleep you’ve been craving.
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