No matter how well you eat throughout the day, you might still crave an evening snack. Conventional wisdom has said that eating before bed is a bad idea, but certain foods can actually promote good sleep and aren’t terrible for you.

However, overeating at night can still cause digestive distress and unintended consequences. We’re going to walk through how to curb night snacking and what is good and bad to eat before bed.

What to Eat During the Day

Before you get to snack time at night, eating properly during the day can have a huge effect on how hungry you are in the evening. Eating smaller meals frequently will keep you more full so you don’t binge at night.

If you eat consistently throughout the day, you’ll also be less likely to make poor decisions late at night when it comes to food. Make a light dinner so you’re not getting a load of energy a few hours before lights out.

What You Should Eat at Night

After dinner, if you’re still looking for a little something to eat, wait a few minutes. This will let your body process whether or not you really are hungry. If the feeling doesn’t pass, go ahead and reach for a snack.

There are, however, a few rules of thumb that make bedtime snacking easier. You can’t go wrong with healthy carbohydrates and lean protein, perhaps a few crackers or a light sandwich.

Whole grains are low in fat and are easy for your body to break down. Pair them with a bit of tuna, turkey, or peanut butter and you will get the nutrients that you need throughout the night.

Like all of the recommendations before, keep it light. Pair a small amount of protein with some crackers or rice, or make a peanut butter and banana sandwich. If dairy is your thing, light yogurt, string cheese, or cream cheeses are great snacks for your nighttime nosh.

What to Avoid Before Bed

While some snacks are awesome to help you fall asleep, others can be detrimental to dozing off. If you load up on food at night, you’ll get tons of energy. Worse, your digestive tract slows down closer to bed, so you might encounter a stomachache after a big feast.

Spicy and high-fat foods are more likely to cause indigestion, so avoid them for late-night snacks. Sugary foods are also best avoided, as they can spike your energy levels.

Any alcohol or caffeine is definitely a bad idea. Alcohol may make you sleepy, but your quality of sleep will be lighter and worse than without it. Cut out coffee at least a few hours before you go to bed. Caffeine can last in your system for six hours, which also greatly impacts your ability to sleep.

How to Eat Successfully Before Bed

Besides eating the right foods, snacking at night needs to be done correctly. Make sure that you’re not eating as you slip into bed. This will tell your brain to associate your bed with eating instead of sleeping. If you’re going to snack, do it at least 20 minutes before shutting your eyes. This will let your digestive system start its work, but will minimize the risk of GERD or acid reflux flaring up.

The key to night-snacking is keeping it light. Remember this is a snack. Not a meal. We’ve all been guilty of sneaking a late-night snack, but eating the right thing before going to bed can turn midnight binges into pleasant rituals.

Feature image courtesy of Toni Blay

By Rosie Osmun

Rosie Osmun is the Creative Content Manager at Amerisleep, a progressive memory foam mattress brand focused on eco-friendly sleep solutions. Rosie writes more posts on the Amerisleep blog about getting better sleep, being healthier and eco-friendly living.