This Is The Best Predictor Of A Good Night's Sleep, Says A Metabolic Scientist
If you're chasing a good night's sleep, you may focus on what you can do throughout the day to encourage better rest. Putting your screens away before settling into bed, cutting off caffeine early in the day, and dabbling in sleep-supporting supplements are all A+ options. Some people say certain foods can even encourage better rest, but when is the best time of day to eat them?
On a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, we sat down with Ben Bikman, Ph.D., a metabolic scientist with a doctorate in bioenergetics and author of Why We Get Sick, to chat all things blood sugar balance. In the episode, Bikman shares some critical advice for those looking to achieve better rest. Here, his go-to tip.
How snacking before bed affects sleep quality.
Bikman tells mbg, "The single greatest predictor of a good night's sleep is if I go to bed on an empty stomach." While late-night snacking isn't always easy for Bikman to resist, he's learned over time that snacking before bed significantly affects the quality of his rest.
Research backs up his claim: In this recent study1, researchers found that while eating before bedtime led to longer sleep duration, it also triggered more awakenings throughout the night. Translation: They slept more but also woke up more, meaning their rest was less efficient. And lower-quality sleep likely yields more grogginess and foot-dragging the next morning.
"These findings suggest that refraining from eating or drinking at least one [hour] prior to bedtime is protective against WASO (wake after sleep onset)," the researchers explain. Bikman takes it a step further and even suggests you quit snacking three hours before tucking into bed.
However, that doesn't mean you should go to sleep starving. In fact, doing that can actually trigger your cortisol (stress hormone) levels to spike, which may lower your chance of gaining some quality sleep as well2. The answer? Try your best to refrain from snacking post-dinner, unless you're feeling hungry. If you would like a nibble, try these magnesium-rich foods, and perhaps invest in a magnesium supplement for an extra nudge. While not technically a snack, a smart supplement (like mbg's sleep support+) can also be enjoyed daily as part of your wind-down routine.
If you've tried a few different sleep strategies but still find yourself having trouble falling or staying asleep, you may want to consider your evening snacking habits. Consuming food right before bedtime can affect the quality of your sleep, according to research. However, going to sleep hungry isn't beneficial, either. Overall, do your best and let dinner be your last meal if you can. Everyone is different, but Bikman's tip may be just what you need to finally get a good night's rest. Here are 15 other quick tips for improving your slumber, if you want to double down.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.