Your diet can have a big impact on your sleep quality. This means it’s important to choose late night snacks that are both healthy and delicious. To help you decide what to eat next time you’re craving a midnight snack, we’ve made a list of our favorite healthy late night snacks.
Read on to learn more about snacking and sleep, get snack suggestions, and find tips about how to minimize night time snacking’s impact on your sleep.
12 Healthy Late Night Snack Ideas
Is it really bad to eat right before bed? Unfortunately, it isn’t great for you. According to registered dietitian Alexis Supan, eating at night disrupts your circadian rhythm and makes it harder to fall asleep. Finishing dinner about three hours before bed helps prevent weight gain, ensures you sleep better, reduces symptoms of acid reflux around bedtime, and helps regulate your metabolism and blood sugar levels.
But, if you wake up hungry at night or are really craving a bedtime snack, certain foods are better for your chances of getting restful sleep. Steer clear of foods that are high in sugar or caffeine. Instead, opt for healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates. These foods will help you feel full without disrupting your sleep cycle too much.
You can also search for foods high in certain vitamins or minerals. For instance, magnesium has been linked to better sleep quality. A banana with almond or peanut butter is a great source of magnesium, which can increase melatonin and serotonin and help you sleep.
Another good option if you’re looking for something to put you back to sleep is food high in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid your body needs to create melatonin, which is the hormone that puts you to sleep at night. Vitamins and minerals like B-12, potassium, and calcium can also help you sleep better. In fact, that’s why so many people swear a glass of warm milk before bedtime helps them sleep better! Milk is full of tryptophan, calcium, protein, and B-12, making it a great sleep aid.
Now that you know a few nutrition basics, let’s jump into our list of the best healthy late night snacks.
Starting off our list is yogurt. Like milk, it’s a great source of tryptophan, calcium, and B-12, which can all help you sleep better. It’s also a great option for sleepers with a sweet tooth. If you have a late-night ice cream craving, try freezing thick greek yogurt low in added sugar and snacking on that instead. It won’t disrupt your sleep the way ice cream will, but it might help curb your sugar craving.
Tart cherries are full of antioxidants and may even lower your blood pressure. This fresh fruit also contains a small amount of melatonin, which may help it make you sleep better. Try adding cherries to your late-night snack combo or drink a glass of tart cherry juice with your midnight meal for help with insomnia. If you enjoy dried fruit and have a big sweet tooth, a few dark chocolate-covered cherries are a healthier alternative to a late-night candy bar.
3. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are full of the amino acid tryptophan, which, as we mentioned above, can help you sleep. They’re also a good source of selenium, which may also promote proper rest. Further, pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium—actually, one of the foods with the highest amount of magnesium! Try snacking on these healthy seeds to fall back asleep in the middle of the night.
4. Bananas with almond butter
As mentioned above, bananas are full of potassium and tryptophan, which are great for helping you sleep! They’re also a good source of carbs, so they’ll fill you up fast if you’re dealing with hunger pangs. Adding a spoonful of almond butter (or another low-sugar nut butter) is a great way to feel fuller and fall asleep faster. Almonds are a great choice if you need help falling asleep after snacking because they contain a ton of magnesium calcium, and melatonin.
If you’re looking for protein-rich late night snack options, consider turkey. Lean proteins are high in sleep-inducing tryptophan, and will satisfy late-night hunger fast. Consider adding some brown rice and veggies sautéed in olive oil if you’re eating a very late dinner.
Purdue University published a study explaining that people who eat more protein sleep better in general. Eating protein before bed may help regulate your blood sugar overnight and promote muscle growth and recovery. For a healthy option, try a hard-boiled egg. One egg contains 6 grams of protein!
7. Cheese and crackers
Cheese and whole-grain crackers are another sleep-friendly snack. Try to stick to low-fat cheeses like mozzarella to prevent heartburn. Whole-grain crackers and other complex carbs are also best, whereas simple carbohydrates can reduce serotonin and make it harder to sleep. This is a tasty, filling snack and a healthier alternative to a late night grilled cheese.
8. Cottage cheese
Believe it or not, cottage cheese is a great late night option. Like most dairy, it contains tryptophan. It also contains casein, a slow-releasing protein that helps prevent hunger. So in addition to promoting your melatonin levels, it can keep you full all night long.
Folate-rich kiwi may actually help you combat insomnia. Kiwi are also full of healthy antioxidants that make them great late-night options. A fruit salad full of kiwi, pitted cherries, and your other favorite fruits is a great late-night snack for the summer months.
10. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is a great source of protein, which can help you sleep better. Fatty fish like salmon contain omega-3 oils which promote serotonin and help you sleep. Consider heating up your leftover salmon or indulging in some late night sushi next time you’re looking for a midnight snack. Keep in mind that magnesium-rich brown rice will be better for promoting sleep than white rice when ordering your rolls.
11. Vegetables and Hummus
Good old veggies can also help you sleep better. Potassium-rich leafy greens are best for promoting sleep, but if you’re feeling snacky, try carrots and hummus! Carrots are full of the lesser known compound “alpha-carotene,” which can help you stay asleep longer. Meanwhile, the chickpeas in hummus are rich in tryptophan, folate, and vitamin B-6, which all promote quality rest.
Nuts like almonds, pistachios, and cashews are rich in healthy fats and proteins that make them an ideal late night snack. A nut and dried-fruit heavy trail mix is an ideal way to combat the nighttime munchies. Unsaturated fats like nuts can also increase serotonin levels. If your late night cravings feature potato chips and other salty snacks, salted nuts are a great sleep-friendly alternative.
RELATED: How Long Before Bed Should You Stop Eating?
Tips for Midnight Snacking
If you are planning on midnight snacking, or find that it’s a habit of yours, check out the tips below to snack in the healthiest way possible!
- Eat enough during the day and try to follow a regular meal schedule. This will prevent you from eating most of your food before bed, which will help regulate your circadian rhythm and digestion. This is especially important if you’re working on weight loss. Restricting too much during the day can lead to overeating before bedtime or when you wake up in the middle of the night, which can mess up your sleep schedule.
- Try to eat your last meal 3 hours before bedtime. If you find you’re hungry before bed, try eating a low calorie, high protein snack. The snacks listed above are great options!
- Have a set bedtime routine and wake up at the same time every day. Sleep deprivation can lead to hunger, and maintaining a set sleep schedule will help you get enough sleep every night.
- Practice good sleep hygiene by creating habits that help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep throughout the night.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Both substances negatively affect sleep, so avoiding both before bedtime is a good way to help yourself sleep through the night.
Remember that while eating late at night is not the gold-standard of sleep hygiene, there are plenty of midnight snacks that are perfectly healthy. Look for whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats when choosing your midnight snacks. Be sure to choose foods that are low in caffeine and sugar so that you can fall back asleep quickly after you eat.