Midnight Snacking: The Sleep Factor

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered a few aspects of the question “Should we snack late at night?” Regardless of how your snacking habits impact your weight loss goals, it’s important to consider an indirect factor: sleep. How much and what kind of sleep you get has an impact on your ability to manage your weight in a healthy fashion, according to Dr. Michael Lacey of The Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and Technology. It is, therefore, worth pausing to ask yourself if that nighttime snack is going to help or hurt your sleep cycle.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds / Brian Jackson / CC BY 2.0

Nutrients that help you sleep better:

Magnesium: A natural muscle relaxant, having enough of this nutrient in your diet will help you wind down naturally. Find in: pumkin seeds, spinach, edamame, almonds, bananas, oatmeal

Tryptophan: After about an hour, this chemical will hit your brain as seratonin and melatonin, both of which will help you get some solid zzzs. Find in: chicken, tuna, bananas, milk

Calcium: Great at regulating the production of melatonin, foods high in calcium will help give you a deep, even night’s sleep. Find in: milk, plain yogurt, sardines, tofu

Foods that will make you toss and turn:

Fat: Sure, greasy foods will slow you down for a while, but the difficulties for digestion and acid reflux can lead to a restless night. Avoid: anything heavy in saturated fats

Caffeine: It hardly needs saying, but caffeine is a stimulant that can give you the jitters six ways from Sunday–not a great partner for sound sleep. Avoid: coffee, chocolate, tea, colas

Alcohol: Yes, a nightcap can help you fall asleep, but the quality of sleep can be disrupted by nighttime sweats, nightmares, and a generally uneven sleep cycle that will wake you up on the wrong side of the bed. Avoid: drinking alcohol withing 4-6 hours of your intended bedtime