I try not to eat right before sleep simply because it’s not very comfortable when my body's busy digesting my last meal. But I know it's also uncomfortable to try falling asleep (and staying asleep) on a grumbling, empty stomach.
So, what to do?
I’ve devised a very simple, straightforward manifesto for solving the tummy grumbles once bedtime has arrived.
1. Determine whether or not you're actually hungry.
Sometimes we mistake our hunger for thirst. Drinking a glass of water can help you clarify what your body needs! However, if you’re actually hungry, almonds and bananas promote restful sleep. A banana with almond milk is one of my favorite go-to snacks before bed. Another idea is a banana with a little almond butter, though beware that too much fat just before bed can result in an uneasy stomach.
Kathryn Budig has posted an awesome smoothie recipe that will satisfy the issue of having not had a real dinner but not wanting to sit down to a plateful when it's late at night.
A smoothie with banana, a dash of raw honey, almond milk, a bit of nut butter and cinnamon can solve some serious grumbles without feeling like you’ve just ingested a huge meal. Drinking sustenance is useful just before bed because, in just a few swallows, one can obtain the nutrients and calories that could take five times as long to chew.
2. Don’t jump right between the sheets.
Ideally, you have a bit of time to rest before bed. The only time I jump right into bed after eating is when I've had a glass of almond milk and a banana. Otherwise, it’s nice to let the body transition. If you have time to do a bit of stretching before bed, I’ve noticed this easy sequence promotes incredible digestion and restful sleep:
- Dandasana (staff pose) lengthens the spine and prepares the body for both twists and folds. Hold dandasana for five breaths.
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) rids the body of toxins and gently encourages digestion. Ease into this twist, as twists are not recommended on a full stomach, and swap it for a gentle reclined twist if you’re feeling full. Hold for five long breaths, letting the twist stretch your back muscles and nudge your body towards digestion. Return to Dandasana before repeating on the other side.
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) boasts a plethora of physical benefits including reduced stress, reduced belly fat and digestion aide. Return to Dandasana before folding into Paschimottanasana for ten long breaths.
- Uttanasana (forward fold) is a great pose to get the blood flowing to the head, inducing sleepiness and increasing circulation. I usually feel my vertebrae align in this pose and it’s incredibly calming. Clasp opposite elbows and hang, knees bent, before rolling slowly up, vertebrae by vertebrae and standing for several breaths while the body adjusts.
3. Treat yourself to one of these three rituals before officially conking out:
- Self-hand or foot massage. All that’s needed is a little essential oil or good lotion. Give your hardworking hands or feet (or heck, both!) a little love before letting them rest for the night.
- Chakra Meditation like the one taught by the lovely Jennifer White.
- Gratitude Moment. I like to lie in bed in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle pose) with one hand on my belly, the other on my heart. Taking deep breaths I like to fluidly list the blessings and reasons why I am grateful. It’s a beautiful practice for both waking and falling asleep.
As always, what’s most important is listening to and nourishing one’s own body. We make our own rules. Sleep is a time of powerful rejuvenation for the body. Mindfulness is key, as we don’t want to send our beautiful bodies into eight hours of regeneration and rest starving or stuffed.
Breathe into balance, intuition, simplicity, and always, above all, gratitude.
Sweet dreams and happy digestion tonight, my friends!