Why You Are Snacking At Night And How To Stop

Category: Health  

It’s well past dinner, your stomach is growling, and your bedtime is close. You have a choice to make, go to bed hungry or risk eating a snack that will either keep you awake or add on extra pounds. There is good news!

You don’t have to choose between hunger or sleeplessness and weight gain. There are great late-night snack options that may both help you sleep and are even healthy for you. When we sleep, our bodies go through several processes of breaking down and rebuilding muscle, cells, and tissues. This is a necessary process but requires calories and essential nutrients. This means late-night snacking can actually be good for you, as long as you are choosing nutrient-rich foods.

Causes of Late-Night Snacking

The culprit of late-night snacking may be different for every person. From conscience, to hunger, to boredom and everything in between. No matter what the root cause of your snack habits near bedtime one thing is for certain, it can wreak havoc on your health physically and mentally, not to mention your grocery bill.

So, before finding better foods to turn to perhaps you should consider the cause first. Late-night snacking doesn’t have to be detrimental to your health and sleep quality if you are making healthy decisions, but if there is something deeper going on it is important to find out early and address the issue.

Foods to Avoid

Our first instinct when we are tired and hungry is to turn to a bowl of ice cream, high fat snacks, or a glass of wine. Obviously, sugar-filled snacks are going to keep us up longer and add on the pounds quickly. Foods that are high in fat and greasy will likely cause indigestion making it difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep while simultaneously causing weight gain.*

Alcohol promotes sleep early on, but as the sedative effect wears off through the night, you may find yourself wide awake and having your sleep interrupted from visiting the bathroom multiple times. It is best to avoid foods that contain tyramine. This is the amino acid responsible for triggering the brain to release norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine is a chemical that can stimulate and boost brain activity. Tyramine is found in tomatoes, red wine, aged cheese, and soy sauce. So, if you’re wanting a good night’s sleep, it may be best to bypass the late-night Italian dinner with red wine.  

Keep in mind that certain foods can disrupt your sleep cycle.

Foods to eat

Tryptophan is your friend when it comes to late-night snacking. This amino acid triggers the production of serotonin which is neurotransmitter responsible for making us sleepy and helping calm us down from a long day. Foods that contain tryptophan include nuts, low-fat dairy, cheese, chickpeas, and dried dates. These are typically easy foods to snack on right before bed and you can even keep nuts on your bedside table for easy access.

For the best sleep promoting combination of foods choose complex carbohydrates and tryptophan. Complex carbs won’t spike your glucose like simple carbs and will help tryptophan be more effective. So, a piece of whole wheat bread with some peanut butter is a great option. Grab a bowl of sugar-free oatmeal with some nuts added in to fill you up and make you sleepy quickly.

If you are wanting to curb your sweet tooth, but don’t want the sugar that will inevitably keep you awake, choose a piece of fruit instead. Packing in lean protein before bed will help to keep you full through the night while also giving your body extra amino acids for making muscle and tissue as you sleep.*

Keep some hard-boiled eggs handy, make yourself a low-sugar, protein rich smoothie, or snack on edamame rather than buttery popcorn. Edamame gives you protein, tryptophan, and is a low-calorie snack that won’t increase your waistline. Some people have had success by making hummus from edamame and snacking on it with veggies right before bed.

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Final thoughts

Getting a good quality nights sleep is more important than we give it credit. If you are prone to sleep disturbances, consider your dietary habits that may be preventing you from falling or staying asleep. Chances are, when you begin getting better sleep, you’ll be less likely to turn to comfort foods right before bed. Stop the vicious cycle of poor late-night snacking that may lead to sleeplessness.