Health: The 5 Pre-Bedtime Snack Mistakes
Don't ruin your sleep with a late-night bite!
Snacking before bed can be a tricky business; there are plenty of pre-bedtime snack mistakes to be made. Eat too much, and get ready for a night of tossing and turning. Eat too little, and you might find yourself devouring your entire kitchen at 3 in the morning. It’s no secret that steering clear of refined carbs and junky foods before bed is one of the best ways to avoid a sleepless night. But even noshing on healthy P.M. snacks can still mess with your sleep quality if you’re not careful.
The key to successful bedtime snacking? Balance. “Being overly full or starving is more likely to lead to sleep issues than any one particular food,” says registered dietitian Alex Caspero, R.D.
If you’ve yet to find your snacking sweet spot, one of these five pre-bedtime snack mistakes could be why — here’s the intel you need to turn things around:
1. Getting carried away with portions.
Even when you eat healthy snacks before bed, such as pretzels and hummus or cheese and crackers, it’s easy to overdo it in the portion department. This sends the body into digestion mode, which can make it difficult to fall asleep (and stay asleep). “We need just enough to offer satisfaction, so we don’t wake during the night hungry,” says Caspero. The trick is to be strategic with your snack choices.
The fix: Choose snacks that are harder to overeat, such as pistachios. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try fruits like grapes or berries.
2. Ignoring your cravings.
When you’re craving dessert and attempt to resist it by snacking on healthier alternatives, you might find yourself consuming more calories in the long run, says Connecticut-based registered dietitian Alyssa Lavy, R.D. Because the healthy snack isn’t satisfying your craving, you might keep snacking to fill the void. This might lead to feelings of disappointment, which can cause stress, ultimately, disrupting sleep quality.
The fix: Indulge your dessert craving, stick to a reasonable portion — such as one or two cookies or 1/2 cup of ice cream.
3. Choosing a protein-heavy snack.
Most people can forgo protein before bed and stick with a small amount of carbs and healthy fats to satisfy their hunger. “Protein revs up our metabolism, which is great during the day, but not so great when you’re trying to wind down,” says Minnesota-based registered dietitian Leah Kleinschrodt, R.D. However, she adds, some people do need some protein at night to help stabilize their blood sugar.
The fix: Aim for about 2 ounces of protein (15 grams) before bed.
4. Snacking right before bed.
Getting your snack on just before bed can delay your ability to fall asleep, since your body will be busy digesting the grub. And if you’re lying down as your stomach’s doing its thing, gravity can’t help mosey the digested food through the digestive tract, which can cause an upset stomach during the night, says Kleinschrodt.
The fix: Make sure you have your bedtime snack no later than 30 minutes before you turn in.
5. Going to bed hungry.
Much like being too full can mess with your ability to fall asleep, so can being too, well, empty. Hunger is a sign that your blood sugar is trending downward or already low. Not exactly an ideal state when you’re trying to score some shut-eye.
The fix: Munch on 1/2 cup of berries with 2-3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream.
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