In defense of the bedtime snack
Because it's ok to eat after 8PM if you're hungry
The other night I woke up around midnight (after going to bed at my usual time of 8:45 p.m., insert grandma emoji), and was really hungry. So I got up and had a big bowl of Peanut Butter Puffins with almond milk, felt satisfied and went back to bed. As I was eating, I got to thinking not just about how my fueling was lacking that day, but about the countless women I’ve worked with over the years thought they weren’t allowed to eat after a certain time of day. Or thought they were being “bad” for doing so. This is a rule totally made up by diet culture, and it sucks.
peanut = big fan of bedtime snacks (and comfy beds)
I’m here to tell you that if you’re hungry, then you should eat something, regardless of what time it is. Similar to the urge to urinate, hunger is trying to tell you something very simple - your body needs some energy. And just like you wouldn’t hold your pee if you had to go after a certain time (at least I hope not!), you shouldn’t let your hunger go either. Of course, hunger pangs late at night are often a sign something was missing during the day (read: my need for a midnight snack), and I’d also want you to look into whether your overall nutrition needs to be tweaked. In general though, a bedtime snack can be a great idea if you’re hungry, which can happen if you eat dinner early or are in a heavy training cycle with high energy demands.
Goals for bedtime snacks
Bedtime snacks should be on the lighter side, and ideally consumed at least 30-60 minutes before hitting the hay in order to give a bit of time for digestion and avoid acid reflux.
Combinations of carbohydrates and protein can be both filling, and sleep-promoting, depending on what you choose. That’s because certain proteins contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps produce serotonin and melatonin in the body, which both play an important role in sleep. Carbohydrates help make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why the carb/protein combination can help you get your Z’s.
A+ bedtime snack pairings
Greek yogurt with berries - Greek yogurt is a good source of tryptophan, and the berries add a sweet and carbohydrate-containing twist. The protein content of the also aids in satiety to quell your post-slumber hunger
Banana with peanut butter - peanut butter packs a decent amount of tryptophan, and combined with banana for some delicious carbohydrate, is the ultimate sleep-inducing snack
Cheese and crackers - cheese is the tryptophan star here, and the complex carbohydrates from the crackers help the body produce those sleep-promoting hormones and neurotransmitters
Toast with almond butter - a nice option if you’re craving something warm and comforting before bed, with the added boost of the perfect tryptophan/carbohydrate combination.
Half a turkey sandwich - turkey may be the most well-known source of tryptophan thanks to Thanksgiving, but can be consumed on the regular as a useful and nourishing bedtime snack in sandwich form
Bowl of cereal with milk - dairy milk is another great source of tryptophan, and combined with easily digestible cereal (like Peanut Butter Puffins!) makes for an easy evening snack.
Eight ounces of tart cherry juice with a handful of walnuts – tart cherries and tart cherry juice are one of the only food sources of melatonin, and drinking it before bed may help improve sleep. Combine with walnuts, which also contain a small amount of melatonin, for satiating healthy fats. Tart cherry juice is also packed with antioxidants and may help improve recovery after hard runs and workouts. An added bonus, if you will.
The best way to figure out what is going to work the best for you is some experimentation. The next time your stomach grumbles well after dinner, honor that hunger with some of these ideas and you may be well on your way to a good or even better than usual night’s sleep.