Do you have a hard time falling asleep due to an empty stomach or wake up early in the morning with a grumbling in your belly? What you snack on before bedtime can either completely disrupt your sleep performance or improve the overall quality of your sleep. The secret is knowing which foods you should and shouldn’t snack on before climbing under the covers. (Fun fact: munching on a mini charcuterie board before bed can actually help increase the amount of deep sleep you get!) Ahead, we break down the best foods to eat at night that can lead to better sleep.
Is it okay to snack before bedtime?
Avoiding large meals right before bedtime is a common practice of good sleep hygiene. Yet, a snack may be beneficial if you find yourself unable to fall asleep due to hunger or wake up in the middle of the night from low blood sugar.
Many women in perimenopause and menopause wake up in the middle of the night. Typical reasons for this awakening include hot flashes, night sweats, needing to urinate, or an overactive mind. Although there is a lack of scientific research to show a connection between nighttime awakenings and low blood sugars in mid-life women, research in healthy adults has shown blood sugar levels in the 50 milligram/deciliter (normal is >70 mg/dL) is associated with waking up and less deep sleep.1 Having a snack before sleeping may be an easy and delicious fix to consider if you want to sleep through the night.
Who shouldn’t snack before bedtime?
Snacking before bedtime isn’t for everyone and those who suffer from heartburn or indigestion should avoid lying down after eating for at least two to three hours. There is mixed data that indicates that eating before bedtime can potentially lead to weight gain. However, mindless eating — AKA, when you mindlessly snack while binging on the latest docuseries — can cause the scale to creep up.
Why does food make you sleepy?
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycles and is released by the pineal gland in our brain. It’s made from the amino-acid tryptophan, which turns into serotonin before turning into melatonin. Did you know that our levels of melatonin decrease as we age, starting around 60 years old? 2
Thankfully, eating foods rich in tryptophan (the building block of melatonin) can increase our levels of serotonin — and thus, the levels of melatonin in our bodies as well. Can we eat foods high in serotonin to help us sleep too? Unfortunately not, we can’t directly use the serotonin from food as it doesn’t cross the protective barrier in our brain but there are plenty of foods packed with tryptophan and melatonin that make us sleepy.
- Tryptophan- rich foods: cheese, turkey, chicken, egg whites, fish, milk, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and soy beans3
- Melatonin-rich foods: eggs, fish, milk, pistachios, mustard seeds, grapes, tart cherries, strawberries, and mushrooms 4
Now it’s time to put these foods into action. Try these three tryptophan-loaded snacks and eat your way to better sleep!
- Egg whites with a slice of turkey
- Edamame hummus with mushroom chips
- Fruit and nut platter of grapes, strawberries, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds
What snacks should I avoid before bedtime in perimenopause?
Try not to eat anything that can trigger a hot flash before bedtime, otherwise you’ll definitely have a harder time falling and staying asleep. In women, diets high in processed foods, saturated fats, and desserts can result in increased mood disturbances and hot flashes.6
If you have heartburn or indigestion, keep the snack small and avoid foods that too are too spicy or acidic. Caffeine, a commonly used stimulant, can keep you from falling asleep at your desired bedtime. On the other hand alcohol before bedtime may make you sleepy however it is known to disrupt the quality of your sleep by altering your sleep stages.
Diets that are high in saturated fat and low in fiber can lead to frequently waking up throughout the night and poor deep sleep. Incorporating more fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, and berries, into your diet can improve your overall quality of sleep, including a longer stretches of deep sleep. 5
For more information on how to get the best sleep of your life during perimenopause check out our other blogs on women’s sleep and wellness topics. To contact Dr. Val at for 1:1 sleep coaching please visit www.sleephoria.health.
- Schmid, S. M., Jauch‐Chara, K., Hallschmid, M., Oltmanns, K. M., Born, J., & Schultes, B. (2008). Short‐term nocturnal hypoglycaemia increases morning food intake in healthy humans. Diabetic medicine, 25(2), 232-235.
- Zhao, Z.-Y., Xie, Y., Fu, Y.-R., Bogdan, A., & Touitou, Y. (2002). AGING AND THE CIRCADIAN RHYTHM OF MELATONIN: A CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDY OF CHINESE SUBJECTS 30–110 YR OF AGE. Chronobiology International, 19(6), 1171–1182. https://doi.org/10.1081/CBI-120015958
- A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia . Johns Creek (GA): Ebix, Inc., A.D.A.M.; c1997-2020. Nail abnormalities; [updated 2020 Jan 7; cited 2022 Aug 1]; Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002332.htm
- Meng, X., Li, Y., Li, S., Zhou, Y., Gan, R.-Y., Xu, D.-P., & Li, H.-B. (2017). Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin. Nutrients, 9(4), E367. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9040367
- Noll, P. R. E. S., Campos, C. a. S., Leone, C., Zangirolami-Raimundo, J., Noll, M., Baracat, E. C., Júnior, J. M. S., & Sorpreso, I. C. E. (2021). Dietary intake and menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: A systematic review. Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society, 24(2), 128–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/13697137.2020.1828854
- St-Onge, M.-P., Roberts, A., Shechter, A., & Choudhury, A. R. (2016). Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(01), 19–24. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.5384