Sleep and your diet: Should you have a late night snack?

You’ve heard the phrase, you are what you eat, but eating also can help dictate how you sleep.

We can all be guilty of it, just a quick snack just before bed. But Geisinger’s Medical Director for sleep medicine Dr. Michael Marino says not so fast.

“Prior to bedtime I prefer someone have nothing to eat within two hours. And the reason for that is, one of the things that can cause a sleep disturbance would be reflux… heartburn. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for food to clear through the stomach,” says Dr. Marino

Eating right is actually something you should be thinking about all day long if you want a better night’s sleep.  It’s all about brain chemistry.

“The foods that you should eat, complex carbohydrates are wonderful with it. Avoiding some of the higher sugar, some of the simple carbohydrate foods, as that can sometimes suppress serotonin and make it harder to fall asleep at night,” suggests Dr. Marino.

And when it comes to drinking that last glass of water for the night, it’s actually better for sleep to go to bed a little thirsty.

“It’s very common for a man to have to get up once or twice during the course of the night to use the bathroom. So try to avoid anything to drink within an hour or two before bedtime.”

So if you just need to have that late night snack, here are a few suggestions:

  • Hummus and veggies: the chickpeas in hummus have Vitamin B6 which helps produce melatonin
  • Cereal and milk: skip the sugary cereals that keep you awake. Go instead with whole grains and the milk has tryptophan, which helps put you to sleep
  • Applesauce with cinnamon and raisins: these naturally sweet foods reduce the neurotransmitter that triggers the brain to wake you up