Some nights you just need a little something. Whether your stomach is growling so loudly that you know you won’t be able to sleep, or dinner just didn’t do it, a snack will not only satisfy you, but can also promote better slumber. To avoid turning this nosh into a fourth meal, cap snacks at 150 to 200 calories, advises registered dietitian Mary Hartley, MPH. Here are 10 ideas to try – eat ’em and sleep.
Whole Grain Graham Cracker Topped With Cottage Cheese And Sliced Kiwi
Why it works: This carb and protein duo lulls you to sleep. Cottage cheese is a surprisingly good source of protein, which helps create the sleep-promoting amino acid tryptophan. Crackers have carbohydrates that boost tryptophan’s availability to the brain. Then top it with kiwi, which a 2011 study linked with longer snooze time in problem sleepers, possibly because its antioxidants may regulate neurotransmitters that control slumber.
Small Bowl Of Rice
Why it works: New research in PLOS One shows that a diet a containing rice is associated with a decreased risk of poor sleep by up to 46%, compared to bread (which had no effect) or noodles (which made sleep quality worse). High glycemic index foods like rice may improve tryptophan and melatonin production, say researchers. Plus, “it’s soothing and satisfying,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Christine Palumbo. Have leftover rice in the fridge? Warm it in the microwave and top with a dash of milk.
Ham And Cheese Roll Up
Why it works: A small slice of cheese and one slice of tryptophan-packed ham will only set you back around 100 calories, enough to stop late-night stomach rumbles, but not so much that it will pack on the pounds. And it may benefit your waistline later, too: Cheese is full of casein proteins, which, when eaten 30 minutes before bed have been found to improve your metabolism the next day, according to one study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Tart Cherry Juice
Why it works: Older adults suffering from insomnia who drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily slept 85 minutes longer compared to a placebo, found a small preliminary study from Louisiana State University. The fruit is a rich source of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, as well as antioxidants that control zzz-zapping inflammation. If the taste is too intense, mix with sparkling water.
Handful Of Walnuts
Why it works: Just like cherry juice, walnuts are rife with melatonin—and eating them has been proven to increase levels in your blood, according a study in Nutrition. That’s just the thing you need to improve your sleep-wake cycle, so you can drift off with ease. One caveat, notes Hartley: Nuts are high in calories, so stick to a one-ounce serving (14 walnut halves) that clocks in at 185 calories.
Why it works: At only 30 calories a cup, air-popped popcorn is an ideal late-night-TV-watching snack food. The carbs in popcorn stimulate the release of insulin, which has been proven to control your circadian clock, according to a new study on mice published in the journal Cell Reports. Dust with cinnamon or paprika; both spices have been shown to give your metabolism a boost.
Whole Grain Toast With Almond Butter
Why it works: One tablespoon of almond butter offers up a good dose of magnesium; deficiency of the mineral has been linked to insomnia and muscle cramps, which can disrupt sleep. (Some reports show that nearly 70% of adults don’t consume enough magnesium.) Whole grains also contain magnesium, as well as those all-important snooze-promoting carbs.
Why it works: A blend of banana and low-fat milk, this smoothie supplies vitamin D and calcium. These two nutrients have been associated with decreased odds of having problems falling and staying asleep—17 and 16%, respectively, per a study in the Journal of Sleep Research. Adding the banana to the mix provides sweetness without added sugar, plus it’s an excellent source of magnesium and B6, a vitamin that aids your body in making serotonin, a relaxing neurotransmitter.
Ginger Tea With Dried Dates
Why it works: Sleep experts love the idea of drinking nighttime tea because it sets up a sleep ritual that tells your brain it’s time to turn off and go to bed. Be sure to reach for caffeine-free herbal varieties that won’t keep you awake. A good pick is ginger, which has long been used as a digestive aid. Snack on some dried fruit, like dates, which offers digestion-promoting fiber.
A Cup Of Soup
Why it works: Easy on your digestive system, warm liquids are inherently calming, says Palumbo. Go for ones that are easy to digest; smooth soups like butternut squash or broth-based ones like chicken noodle are good bets (but avoid tough-to-digest versions like lentil or bean). Look for single-serve heat-and-eat containers for the fastest bedtime fix.