Many of us will know the feeling. You’re tired, looking forward to bed, but just as you begin your journey to the kingdom of sleep, your stomach performs an almighty roar. Hunger has struck. Maybe not the need for a three course meal, but just one of those late night snacks. The trouble is that eating before bed can lead to indigestion, so do you go to bed hungry? Or do you eat before bed?
The causes of indigestion
Indigestion can have many causes so we suggest you read this NHS Guide on Indigestion to fully familiarise yourself with the discomfort. One of the main causes of indigestion is eating, which makes your stomach produce acid. This acid can irritate your stomach lining, the top part of your bowel or your Oesophagus.
Is eating before bed OK?
Yes. Late night snacks help stabilise your blood sugar levels which are important for helping you to sleep well, re-energise your body and brain after a long day, and prepare your body to wake up refreshed the next morning. If your blood sugar levels are too low, you’ll have difficulty sleeping, and getting out of bed will be tough. Avoid high sugar food such as ice cream or cookies and instead opt for the low-carb, high protein options below…
What are the best and healthiest late night snacks?
Yogurt (fat free)
Fat-free yogurt is packed with dietary protein, or probiotics, and other beneficial nutrients. This protein makes you feel fuller for longer and is the perfect sized snack to keep hunger at bay until morning.
Have a piece of chicken or turkey meat. White meat digests very slowly, it has a very low insulin release, and contains glucagon, which helps the body break down stored carbs and fat for energy later. Avoid red meat as this contains tyrosine which stimulates the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that will definitely not help you sleep.
A small bowl of cottage cheese digests slowly and contains filling protein. Similar to fat-free yogurt, keep your cottage cheese plain and sugar-free, and spruce it up with a couple of berries instead.
Whole wheat crackers
A few whole-wheat crackers will keep your body away from hunger right till breakfast. Don’t eat your way through the entire box, as a couple of crackers with a slice or two of cheese will satisfy your stomach without being overbearing.
Raw vegetables like cucumber, carrots, and broccoli are filling, low in calories, and provide complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates break down slowly and keep you full through the night. If, like so many of us, you enjoy a nice dip, opt for a non-spicy hummus since that contains vitamin B6, essential for the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are very easy to digest which makes them perfect for snacking before bed. Bananas in particular help you fall asleep since they are filled with potassium and magnesium, and these both double-up as natural muscle relaxants.
What are the worst late night snacks?
It’s very easy to ruin your sleep with a very poor choice of bedtime snack. These can cause indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux which cause your sleep to truly suffer.
Read more: The Sleep Health Calculator
High-sugar and high-carbohydrates
These will hamper your body’s effort to settle and repair itself since they suppress the production of insulin. They also cause you to store fat and thus gain weight, so put down that late night cookie and give yourself plenty of time between your evening meal and bedtime.
Greasy, fatty and heavy foods
These take your body a long time to digest. If you’ve just eaten bacon and eggs then your body won’t find the time to settle down for bed as well as to suddenly digest a fatty snack.
This is the worst of all late night snacks – a huge dinner will simply weigh down on your stomach while it produces an excess of acids to digest. This in turn will cause all manner of indigestion discomfort.
These will disrupt your sleep for all sorts of reasons. Caffeine has a half life of 8 hours which is the amount of time it spends in your bloodstream. So if you have an evening coffee, make it decaf. Alcohol prevents you from entering the REM sleep stage, meaning your body and brain fail to restore properly and prepare to wake up refreshed. Try avoiding water or any fluid within 90 minutes of bedtime. Your body will thank you for it and you will wake up feeling refreshed!
Do you have tips on favourite late nights snacks? We would love to hear them in the comments below…