Bedtime snacks often get a bad rap, but healthy options certainly do exist. The key is looking for one that won't spike your blood sugar right before bed, inhibiting precious sleep in the process. Instead, sleep specialists recommend opting for food groups that will satisfy your hunger, keep blood sugar levels steady, and provide some relaxing benefits to boot.
Here's what to look for in foods and drinks that promote sleep when enjoyed in moderation. "It's important to find a balance between too much and not enough," Li Åslund, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sleep expert at Sleep Cycle, caveats to mbg. "Heavy meals close to bedtime can have a negative impact on sleep, but going to bed on an empty stomach is not recommended either."
Throw them on your grocery list, pre-portion them so they're easy to snag at night, and prepare to rest a little easier.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that our bodies need (but many of us don't get enough of1). It plays a role in promoting everything from brain, heart, muscle, and skeletal health to—you guessed it—sleep quality2.* As such, magnesium-rich foods deserve a spot in your bedtime snack stash. Åslund recommends almonds, which are also high in blood sugar-friendly fibers. Taking a high-quality sleep supplement with magnesium before bed can also help prepare the body for deep sleep.*
Try: A handful of almonds or unsweetened almond butter
"Foods that are higher in fiber are thought to enhance deep sleep," explains Nishi Bhopal, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in sleep medicine. As opposed to sweet treats that will spike blood sugar and disrupt the deeper sleep stages3, Bhopal says that fibrous, minimally processed foods can help stabilize blood sugar as night goes on and keep you satiated until your morning alarm. Nuts, seeds, and certain fruits, vegetables, and legumes can all fit the bedtime bill.
Try: Carrots and a spoonful of hummus
Kids who drink warm milk before bed are on to something. Bhopal explains that the tryptophan in milk, and some non-dairy alternatives like oat or almond milk, have a relaxing effect4 and can reduce the amount of time it takes for us to fall asleep. To make it more exciting, Bhopal loves to combine milk with healthy spices like turmeric, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon to make golden milk.
The act of sipping on this warming tonic can also help your body and mind unwind from the day and become a calming ritual all its own. "The caveat here is to not drink too much liquid before you go to bed because then it can cause you to have to wake up and go to the bathroom," Bhopal adds. "Pay attention to your body and see what your body's needs are."
Try: A small glass of low-sugar golden milk (peep a nutritional psychiatrist's favorite recipe here)
The bottom line.
Swapping out unhealthy nighttime vices like alcohol, sweet desserts, and processed treats with this expert-approved snack and drink menu can help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling satisfied.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.