Healthy sleep is trending and, as odd as it may sound, finding ways to sleep more efficiently is one of the latest crazes in the world of health and fitness. There are unusual beverages that can help you fall asleep and there are even a bunch of snacks you can eat before bed in order to help you build muscle. And, while everyone knows that caffeine before bed doesn’t equate to a great night’s rest, it’s possible that you are not aware of the many foods that aren’t great to have before bed.
“Typically, snacking at night is not caused by hunger but, rather, boredom,” says Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian and the lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. “Additionally, the types of food that are snacked on are usually high-calorie, indulgent food items like ice cream, cake, and chips. Combine these two factors and it is very likely that the snacker is overconsuming total daily calories, thus resulting in weight gain.”
But it isn’t just your waistline you need to worry about when eating before bed.
“I advise against snacking near bed[time] for reasons beyond the obvious (like weight gain),” says Alyssa Cellini, nutritionist and co-founder of My Custom Cleanse, “because of the effects it has on sleep and future diabetes risk. Sleep quality is highly affected by your circadian rhythm, so offsetting your insulin/cortisol in the night may cause you to toss and turn — or even hit snooze on your alarm in the morning. Diabetes is caused by high blood sugar swings and especially high insulin levels in the blood. So, pasta for lunch or two cookies near bed may have very different calories, but both elevate your insulin to the same point in your blood — overwhelming your cells and getting you one step closer to diabetes.”
If eating before bed can be so detrimental to one’s weight and health, what is the cut-off point? When should we stop consuming the foods in the accompanying slideshow?
“A great rule of thumb is two hours [before bed],” advises Ana Goldseker, director of nutrition for Nava Health and Vitality Centers. “The body should have ample time to properly digest its last meal before going horizontal. You want the body to be resting at night, not digesting. Better yet, review your last meal and figure out why it wasn't satisfying. If you can take nighttime snacking out of the equation, even better!”
In addition to our 21 Sleep Hacks to Rest Your Way to a Better Body and Better Health, we urge you to avoid the following caffeine-containing, sugary, high-carb snacks before bed.