For a lot of people late nights are inevitable. For some, the ability to eat at what is considered a “reasonable” hour may not be an option for them. For others, late night snacking is a regular part of their routine. What you eat and when you eat it prior to going to bed has a strong correlation to the quality of your sleep. For example, eating a lot of sugary foods may keep you up at night or have you waking up in the middle of the night feeling ill.
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night your eating habits could be a major contributing factor. If your schedule doesn’t allow for you to eat at that “reasonable” time, don’t worry, there are still foods you can consume that will positively impact your sleep- not the other way around!
Dr. Scott Schreiber
Over one-third of Americans are sleep deprived and almost 50% state that their daily performance has suffered over the last week. Sleep is essential for good health and grossly neglected. The current recommendations state that the majority of people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. As we age we need less. There are also a few people that can get by with less, but this is the minority. Not only is the length of time important, but the quality of sleep is actually more important. Emerging research shows that using electronic devices before bed decreases the quality of sleep. In addition, sleeping with the TV on is also detrimental to your sleep and overall health. The reason for the sleep disturbances is that the amount of melatonin produced changes with the amount of light in our immediate vicinity. Melatonin increases with darkness and if you are sleeping with the TV on or even the power light on, your sleep will be affected. Also sleeping near electronic devices have also been shown to interrupt quality sleep.
Not surprisingly, stress levels interfere with sleep.
Supplements to help sleep:
- Melatonin: Start with 3 mg 30 min before bed
- Magnesium: It’s a natural muscle relaxer and helps
- Valerian Root: Naturally calming
- CBD oil: Great for sleep and decreasing anxiety before bed
Dr. Scott Schreiber has been practicing for over 14 years. He currently practices in Woodbury, MN. He is double board certified in Rehabilitation and Clinical Nutrition. He is also a certified nutrition specialist and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist. He was recently voted the American Chiropractic Association Rehabilitation Chiropractor of the Year. You can learn more about him and what he does here!
- Casein is a protein that breaks down slower for longer release of amino acids during sleep. Cottage cheese is high in casein.
- Magnesium promotes muscle relaxation, recovery and restful sleep (and reduces night cramps).
- But don’t eat a heavy meal before sleep as it may interfere with the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Josh Hewett is an incredibly accomplished personal trainer, coach and the author of Get Lean, Get Strong and Get Mental. Josh is also the founder of Top Form Fitness.
What should you eat before bed?
Nothing. Herbal tea. Water.
This answer might sound flippant, but really, most of us don’t need food after dinner and before bed, especially the type of foods one typically eats after dinner. You know what I am talking about: all the bad foods … wine, chips, popcorn, snack foods, etc. Sugar, alcohol, or a stuffed belly never improved the quality of anyone’s sleep. As I always tell my clients, “Nothing good is ever eaten after dinner.” I aim to eat within a 12-hour window: I eat between 8 am and 8 pm. (This window obviously reflects my lifestyle and could shift depending on your work schedule. It could be 7 am-7 pm or 9 am-9 pm. You pick the window, but the concept stands. Eat your food when your body needs fuel. It doesn’t need fuel to sleep.)
Now — as always — there is a caveat. The highly active individual who plans to do a “fasting” moderate to intense workout before breakfast, might benefit from a balanced snack of a few hundred nutritiously dense calories. (“Fasting” means the workout is done without a pre-workout snack.)
Back to my advice for the regular human and moderately active individual. Unless it is a special occasion, after dinner, enjoy a cup of herbal tea and then instead of thinking about food, start a sleep routine.
An individualized sleep routine is critical. Why? Because as you sleep your body and brain recover, and your hormones rebalance. Getting adequate sleep (both quality and quantity) is 100% a linchpin health habit; sleeping will help keep all of your other “health ducks” in a row.
Sleep has a compounding effect that improves mood and performance, strengthens the immune system, and increases the likelihood you will be able to say “no” to food. Sleep is key for optimal health and weight management. If you don’t sleep it is almost impossible to resist sugar, lose weight, and maintain an exercise program. Without sleep, most of us become a bottomless pit of cravings. Sleep regulates hormones like ghrelin (which makes you hungry), leptin (which makes you feel full), and stress/weight hormones such as cortisol and insulin.
Possible sleep routine components
-Turning off all screens 30 minutes to an hour before bed
-Making sure your bedroom is cool and DARK
-Doing something that is relaxing. Have a bath (an Epsom salt bath can be especially relaxing), meditate, or do some deep breathing, gentle yoga, stretching, or lie on a foam roller
-Drinking a soothing sleepy-time herbal tea such as chamomile or a tea with valerian root in it
-Having a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule
-Taking melatonin and/or magnesium
Also, remember that a good sleep starts in the morning. Prioritize exercise — make a conscious effort to sit less and move more throughout your day — AND stop consuming coffee 6 to 8 hours before bed.
Kathleen Trotter is a fitness expert, media personality, personal trainer, writer, and author of Finding Your Fit. A Compassionate Trainer’s Guide to Making Fitness a Lifelong Habit and Your Fittest Future Self. Kathleen has been a personal trainer and fitness expert for more than fifteen years. Kathleen holds an M.Sc. in Exercise Science from the University of Toronto and a nutrition diploma from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Kathleen is currently working to become a life coach and a certified Nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition.