So, finally, you made it! It’s 11 pm and the kids went to bed, dishes are done, and you even managed to bake 2 dozen cupcakes for the next day’s sale. Now, you are starving, and that bowl of leftover frosting is calling you! You have controlled the whole day-but no matter how many vegetables and fruits you eat, you cannot curb those late-night cravings. Do not worry. All of us have been there. Just like all other things in life- it all comes down to balance. It feels that eating a nighttime snack may not be as bad as everyone thinks if your midnight snacks do not turn to be a midnight buffet. Find out what science has to say, or if you are too hungry, go ahead and check out the best healthy foods to eat at night.
What happens to digestion when you sleep?
You must have heard that our brain has an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm which helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. But do you know that every organ in your body has an internal clock that controls its regular activities too? The stomach is the main organ we tend to link up with digestion, but it is just one of the several players as far as the digestive process is concerned.
Your body needs a repeated supply of energy so that it functions properly, and for this the main source is glucose. As the day moves on, our body burns glucose constantly for muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and to regulate our body temperature. Suddenly, our energy starts dropping, so the digestive system starts to suffer.
During the day, our mouth produces saliva that consists of enzymes to break down the food that we eat the whole day. During the night, the amount of saliva dramatically decreases, and stomach acid secretion reduces too. Even the pancreas reduces the production of the hormone, insulin which is responsible for regulating blood sugar.
The intestines are referred to as the “gut” and measures 28 feet long. This is the main area for actual digestion and absorption of nutrients, but even your gut operates on a regular clock. Some of the latest research on the trillions of bacteria that make up your microbiome has found that it operates on a rhythm that affects metabolic and immune health.
Does this mean that your body stops digestion the moment you sleep, leaving that chicken steak you are for dinner floating inside until morning? The answer is both yes and no. While our digestive process slows down at night, it does not stop totally.
Most of the health experts suggest avoiding eating late at night is because sleeping puts our body in an inactive state, avoiding enzymes and stomach acids from converting food to energy. Our body also depends on gravity to help the procedure of digestion work smoothly. Some of the telltale signs of an inability to digest foods are heartburn, acid reflux, and bloating.
Healthy foods that will make you sleep
If you decide that having a bedtime snack is perfect for you, it is significant to know which healthy foods to select. Keeping the snack healthy and nearly 150 calories appear to be the best choice. Some foods may even enhance your sleep by helping you to fall asleep faster and have a sound sleep for longer.
Proteins are the group of foods that consists of amino acids, important for hormones, neurotransmitters in the body and for building muscles. Few hormones like cortisol and melatonin are included in our sleep-wake cycle and several neurotransmitters also regulate activities like sleep and mood. Tryptophan is an example of an amino acid that is generally found in turkey and one that many people link with that sleepy feeling after Thanksgiving dinner.
Proteins are digested slowly compared to carbohydrates, and unlike carbs, they do not increase blood sugar. At night, this is a helpful thing as it means you will not have a roller-coaster effect of increased blood glucose followed by a dip that could disturb your sleep.
Merged with exercise, a high-protein snack before going to sleep could lead to muscle building and a high metabolism the following day. It may even help you to wake up without setting an alarm. If you want to lose weight or improve your athletic performance, then this could be helpful.
Some of the popular before-bed protein choices include:
- Seeds and nuts
- Fish and seafood
- Legumes and beans
- Yogurt and Cheese
- Fruits and vegetables
- Protein powder
Fruits & Vegetables
Many fruits are rich in the hormone, melatonin, which could help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for a long time. While fruits contain sugar, most of the fruits are high in fiber which avoids the blood sugar spike that we experience with other foods. Fruits are rich in antioxidants, compounds that may help to fight against the oxidative stress that results in many sleep disorders.
Cherries (mainly tart varieties and their juice) are rich in sleep-promoting potassium, melatonin, tryptophan, and serotonin. Different studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice before going to sleep helps in improving the symptoms of insomnia.
Kiwis are another fruit that researchers prefer. Thanks to its sleep-inducing compounds. Kiwis are rich in melatonin, calcium, magnesium, and various other elements that make them a great snack. A small study found that eating 2 kiwi fruits one hour before bed improved the ability to fall asleep for a longer time.
If you prefer a little crunch before going to sleep, prefer veggies and some hummus. These are some of the healthy foods that have proven to improve the quality of sleep. Several studies have discovered that a plant-based diet was linked with less fatigue and sleep-related losses than wither a high protein or saturated sugar and fat diet.
This is one of the healthy diet foods that people tend to hate or love. If you find yourself as a part of the former group, you may be lucky as far as sleep is concerned. Yogurt consists of tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin and serotonin, but it is also rich in magnesium and calcium. These two minerals contribute to stress reduction, muscle relaxation, and make the nervous system stable.
Another reason why yogurt may be such a good bedtime snack is that it consists of less lactose compared to other dairy products and may help to enhance digestive health condition. If indigestion and heartburn keep you awake at night, this calcium-rich snack could ignite the fire-burning sensation in your throat.
Yogurt also consists of probiotics, which contributes to a healthy microbiome. Research on the role of gut health in regulating sleep is still in its early stages, but several studies have found that the microbiome may play a larger role in sleep than we earlier thought.
If you decide to choose yogurt as a bedtime snack, then look for unsweetened varieties that consist of live probiotics. Sweetened yogurt may consist of as much sugar as a candy bar, which could keep you awake at night. Unsweetened Greek yogurt that is rich in protein is the best option, topped with some cinnamon powder, nuts, or fruits. If you feel hungry at night- rather than stressed or bored- eating a snack below 200 calories should not increase the scales.
Many of these healthy foods contain sleep-supportive compounds, including serotonin, magnesium, calcium, melatonin, and tryptophan. The most significant thing is to keep these healthy foods handy. You will be less tempted to run to the convenience store or hit the nearest fast-food drive-through for a high-calorie, unhealthy snack before going to bed.