The Best (And Worst) Foods To Eat Before Bed

Cravings, cravings, cravings! They happen all day, every day. For many of us, the greatest struggle is right before bed when we're more likely to choose the wrong food to eat, leading not only to a restless night of sleep but also to feeling a bit heavier the following morning.

Certain foods, however, contain distinct ingredients that can actually contribute to a better night's sleep and even help suppress hunger and speed up metabolism, leading to weight loss. In this article, we'll dive into both the best and worst foods for each goal in mind.

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Best (And Worst) Foods To Eat Before Bed [Infographic]

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The Best and Worst Foods to Help You Sleep

Some foods are more conducive to better sleep than others depending on the nutrients they contain. The following list of vitamins, minerals, and hormones are some of the main ingredients to look for in foods to help prepare you for a restful slumber:

Main Nutrients That Promote Sleep

  • Melatonin – Produced by the body's pineal gland and available in supplement form and select foods, melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle and thus integral to sleep.
  • Magnesium – Commonly regarded by health experts as the "sleep mineral," magnesium helps slow down the production of adrenaline in the body and acts as a muscle relaxant, which promotes restful sleep.
  • Calcium – A mineral that accelerates the production of melatonin in the body, a lack of sufficient calcium can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and experience difficulty falling back to sleep.
  • Tryptophan – An amino acid found in many foods, tryptophan naturally breaks down when consumed and disperses as serotonin first before converting to melatonin, which ultimately aids sleep.
  • Vitamin B6 – A nutrient that helps transform tryptophan into melatonin, a lack of sufficient vitamin B6 lowers the amount of serotonin in the body which in turn produces less melatonin, resulting in poorer sleep.
  • Vitamin D – Among its many important roles, vitamin D may help regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which, when lacking, can cause sleep interruptions on a regular basis.

Now, before you run to your local grocery and stock up on foods loaded with these essential nutrients for a good night's sleep, remember that no matter what you eat, consuming too much food right before bedtime isn't a habit you want to get into.

In fact, medical experts from the Mayo Clinic and National Institutes of Health both advice eating your last meal for the night at least three hours before you intend to go to bed. This gives your body enough time to properly digest your snack or meal without interrupting your sleep pattern. With that said, let's take a look at some of the best foods to eat before bed...

The Best Foods for Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Almonds

Main Nutrients:

Magnesium; Tryptophan


Apart from producing a calming effect that relaxes your muscles and promotes restful sleep, almonds also increase nutrient absorption and helps fight inflammation.

Almonds - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Avocados

Main Nutrients:

Magnesium; Calcium; Tryptophan; Vitamin B6


Containing a chock full of helpful nutrients that benefit sleep and overall health, this fruit includes more than the recommended daily requirements of magnesium, dietary fiber, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K.

Avocados - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Bananas

Main Nutrients:

Magnesium; Tryptophan


The abundance of sleep-producing and muscle relaxing nutrients make bananas one of the best fruits to help prepare you for sleep.

Bananas - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Cherries or Cherry Juice

Main Nutrients:

Melatonin


One of the few natural food sources of melatonin, cherries are among the best sleep enhancers. Moreover, one of its by-products, the pigment anthocyanin, is also known to aid sleep. Tart cherry juice can also serve as an effective substitute.

Cherries - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Chicken and Turkey

Main Nutrients:

Tryptophan


While turkey is widely touted as the poultry with the most tryptophan, chicken actually contains more according to experts at the American Dietetic Association.

Chicken And Turkey - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Cottage Cheese

Main Nutrients:

Tryptophan


Aside from tryptophan, cottage cheese is loaded with casein protein, which supplies your body with amino acids that contribute to muscle repair throughout the night.

Cottage Cheese - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Honey

Main Nutrients:

Melatonin


A food substance produced by bees, honey emits serotonin into the body which breaks down and turns into melatonin, thus aiding sleep. Combining a teaspoon of honey with a soothing herbal tea can be even more effective.

Honey - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Kiwis

Main Nutrients:

Serotonin


This berry has high antioxidant levels that allow the body to absorb the fruit's ample amount of serotonin, which can substantially improve sleep quantity and quality.

Kiwis - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Milk

Main Nutrients:

Calcium; Tryptophan; Vitamin D


Drinking a glass of warm milk before bed to make you feel sleepy isn't just an old wives' tail, it actually works! And it's entirely due to its rich source of sleep-inducing nutrients.

Milk - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Sunflower Seeds

Main Nutrients:

Magnesium; Tryptophan; Vitamin B6


Just eating a handful of these seeds daily may be enough to help you doze off at night. What's more, they're also known to improve mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Sunflower Seeds - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Whole Grains

Main Nutrients:

Tryptophan; Vitamin B6


Foods made from whole grains like toast are rich in several sleep-inducing nutrients, which helps you relax and relieve anxiety that may prevent you from restful slumber.

Whole Grains - The Best Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Main Food Sources That Inhibit Sleep

Just as certain food ingredients help induce sleepiness, many types of food hinder restful sleep and should be avoided whenever possible:

  • Alcohol – While this beverage is commonly thought to enhance sleep, any immediate benefits are temporary at best. Since alcohol dehydrates the body, the odds are you'll wake up one or more times during the night craving water to replenish your system, leading to restless and fragmented sleep.
  • Caffeinated Foods and Drinks – While coffee, soda, and energy drinks may first spring to mind as sources of caffeine, keep in mind that many foods like protein bars and dark chocolate are also high in caffeine content. It's good practice to avoid caffeinated foods and drinks every day beginning after lunch as anything later than that may interfere with your sleep pattern at night.
  • Fatty Foods – Foods high in saturated fat are known to reduce sleep time. The more fatty foods you consume, the more stomach acid your body needs to produce to digest it, leading to a restless night of sleep.
  • High-Protein Foods – High-protein foods are the hardest for your body to digest. The closer to bedtime you consume these foods, the more your digestive system has to work to break them down, thus compromising the quality of your sleep.
  • Spicy Foods – Eating spicy foods close to bedtime can lead to digestive issues such as acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion. While our body normally needs at least three hours to complete a digestion cycle, adding a spicy component to food only extends the process and prolongs restlessness as a result.
  • Water-Soluble Foods – While many natural diuretic foods might seem like a good, healthy choice for a late-evening snack, they're anything but. Foods loaded with water mean more frequent trips to the bathroom during the night rather than uninterrupted sleep.
  • Large Portions of Food – No matter what you choose to eat, eating heavily before bed isn't a good idea if you expect to sleep through the night peacefully. Like many of the other food sources mentioned that inhibit sleep, an overabundance of food right before bed requires extra time to digest, which can cut into your sleep time.

Video

The Worst Foods for Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Celery

Food Type:

Water-Soluble Food


While this "green" food is an excellent source of antioxidants, its high water content means your sleep will likely be interrupted with frequent trips to the bathroom. This results in fewer calories are burned.

Celery - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Cheeseburgers

Food Type:

Fatty Food


Not only does a high-fat food like a cheeseburger take much longer to digest, it also produces enough stomach acid to cause heartburn or acid reflux in the middle of the night.

Cheeseburgers - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Cheese Sauces

Food Type:

Fatty Food


Like most high-fat foods, rich cheese sauces like Alfredo sauce can prolong digestion time. Same goes for comfort foods like macaroni and cheese.

Cheese Sauces - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Coffee

Food Type:

Caffeinated Drink


While most people know to stay away from caffeinated coffee before bedtime, many supposed "caffeine-free" coffees actual contain more caffeine than their caffeinated counterparts! So, make sure to read the ingredients beforehand or simply avoid coffee altogether before bed.

Coffee - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Dark Chocolate

Food Type:

Caffeinated Food


Dark chocolate contains serotonin which helps induce sleep but it also includes enough caffeine to offset any good that might come from consuming it before bedtime (as much as one 8 oz. cup of coffee per half bar).

Dark Chocolate - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Fancy Water

Food Type:

Caffeinated Drink


Not only do some bottled waters on the market today contain loads of caffeine, they may also include other stimulants that make it even more of a pick-me-up. For example, the guarana extract from Brazil has twice the amount of caffeine than actual coffee beans.

Fancy Water - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Indian Curry

Food Type:

Spicy Food


When considering spicy foods, few dishes top Indian Curry for its hot seasoning. But the flavorful taste is also often accompanied by heartburn, acid reflux, and even night sweats from elevated blood pressure.

Indian Curry - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Sodas

Food Type:

Caffeinated Drink


Most sodas don't measure up to coffee in terms of caffeine content (25-50 milligrams per 12-ounce can versus 100 milligrams per 6-ounce cup) but it's still enough to wreak havoc on your sleep patterns.

Sodas - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Red Meat

Food Type:

High-Protein Food


While a light source of protein like nut butter is a reasonable bedtime snack, heavier sources like sirloin steaks can lead to more sleep disturbances due to indigestion.

Red Meat - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Wine

Food Type:

Alcohol


Even though drinking a glass of wine before bed is commonly believed to benefit sleep, it actually hinders it. Wine is more likely to disrupt your sleep cycle after falling asleep due to dehydration and other side effects of wine consumption like snoring.

Wine - The Worst Foods For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

The Best and Worst Bedtime Foods to Help You Lose Weight

So you've decided to lose weight and just as you're ready to chart a new course, those hunger pangs set in, especially right before bedtime. Then you either eat too much of the wrong thing or starve yourself thinking your noble efforts will speed up the weight loss process. Sound familiar? Not only do both options result in more restless sleep, they're also unhealthy strategies to lose weight for long-term success.

To be clear, eating before bed doesn't necessarily lead to weight gain, despite the common perception. What's far more relevant are the number of calories consumed throughout the day, not the time of day they're consumed. So, for example, if you only ate a bagel the entire day but gorged on a 1,500 calorie 3-course meal at dinner, that in and of itself won't cause you to gain weight.

Now, ideally, you want to eat your heavier meals for breakfast and/or lunch and stick to a light meal for dinner. But what do you do when you get the munchies in the hour or two leading up to sleep? For these occasions, it's best to eat a healthy bedtime snack of up to 200 calories and to avoid foods abundant in salt or sugar, such as potato chips, chocolate, and ice cream, also known as "trigger foods."

You may also be tempted to skip the late-evening snack altogether as a way to accelerate your weight loss, but this can actually have the opposite effect. First, cravings may lead to interrupted sleep which can lower your metabolism significantly and actually make you hungrier than you were before going to bed. Second, experiencing intense hunger can cause you to make unwise food choices in the morning.

Bottom line: It's okay to have a snack before bedtime if you're hungry, so long as it helps enhance sleep and doesn't exceed your calorie count for the day.

Main Food Sources That Promote Weight Loss During Sleep

  • Tryptophan – An amino acid that synthesizes into serotonin, which in turn produces hormones that have a calming effect on the digestive system, tryptophan ultimately leads to better sleep. And with better sleep comes better metabolism, which contributes to weight loss.
  • Low-Calorie Foods – Many of these foods can be enough to fill you up and satisfy your hunger pangs without racking up serious calories that cause weight gain overnight.
  • Low-Sugar Foods – Foods high in sugar spike your blood sugar level to the point where you crave even more sugary or high carbohydrate foods, thus making you more susceptible to weight gain. For this reason, it's best to stick to low-sugar foods.
  • Slow-Digesting Protein Foods – As these foods are slower to digest, you're more likely to feel fuller longer and experience fewer stomach-related issues like bloating and gas, resulting in a better night's sleep.

Video

The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Almonds

Food Type:

Tryptophan; Low-Calorie Food; Low-Sugar Food


A "healthy fats" food low in simple carbohydrates and sugar content, almonds are also a good source of tryptophan, which helps aid slow digestion for more restful sleep.

Almonds - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Bananas

Food Type:

Low-Calorie Food


Apart from being a high-fiber, low-calorie fruit, bananas are also abundant in potassium and magnesium — two minerals that promote restful sleep.

Bananas - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Cottage Cheese

Food Type:

Tryptophan; Low-Calorie Food; Low-Sugar Food; Slow-Digesting Protein Food


A great, easy to digest "substitute food," cottage cheese is best when added to a smoothie or bowl of fruit to fill you up without racking up too many excess calories.

Cottage Cheese - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Greek Yogurt

Food Type:

Tryptophan; Low-Calorie Food; Slow-Digesting Protein Food


The mega protein and calcium found in Greek yogurt will help speed up your metabolism and burn calories while you sleep.

Greek Yogurt - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Green Foods

Food Type:

Low-Calorie Food; Low-Sugar Food


Not only are most "green" foods like green cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus low in caloric content, their high level of potassium and magnesium will also boost your metabolism, thus helping you shed calories quicker.

Green Foods - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

High-Fiber Cereal

Food Type:

Low-Calorie Food; Low-Sugar Food


Any sugar-free cereal high in fiber like a bran cereal fills you up without adding too many calories to your daily count. Combined with the sleep-inducing properties of milk makes for a good bedtime snack.

High Fiber Cereal - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Oatmeal

Food Type:

Tryptophan; Low-Calorie Food; Low-Sugar Food; Slow-Digesting Protein Food


If you have hunger pangs, this grain will solve it fast. Just be sure to stay away from sugary versions and stick with steel-cut oatmeal or plain packets instead.

Oatmeal - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Peanut Butter

Food Type:

Tryptophan; Low-Sugar Food; Slow-Digesting Protein Food


Rich in protein and healthy fats, peanut butter tastes great and satisfies your hunger fast, making it the perfect late-night snack.

Peanut Butter - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Protein Shake

Food Type:

Slow-Digesting Protein Food


As long as you're mindful of the calories, protein shakes are both filling and terrific for weight loss as they help boost your metabolism in the course of the night.

Protein Shake - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Rooibos Tea

Food Type:

Low-Calorie Drink


An herb from South Africa with a fruit-like flavor and hint of nuts, Rooibos Tea contains unique properties that actually block the storage of fat cells in the body, leading to weight loss.

Rooibos Tea - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

String Cheese

Food Type:

Tryptophan; Low-Calorie Food; Slow-Digesting Protein Food


A protein-rich "filler" food that helps energize your metabolism, string cheese can satiate food cravings late at night without adding too many calories to your daily intake.

String Cheese - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Sweet Potatoes

Food Type:

Low-Calorie Food; Low-Sugar Food


A high-fiber, low-calorie superfood, sweet potatoes can keep you feeling full for long stretches of time. It also helps increase serotonin levels, leading to better sleep while your body burns calories.

Sweet Potatoes - The Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Main Food Sources That Inhibit Weight Loss During Sleep

As you might imagine, the types of foods that inhibit weight loss while sleeping are wide and varied. But not only can they pack extra pounds on your frame, they can also interrupt your sleep due to indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, and other conditions. And when you don't sleep well, your body has a harder time losing weight:

  • Caffeinated Foods and Drinks – While a moderate amount of caffeine doesn't necessarily lead to weight gain, it can prevent you from falling asleep when consumed during the hours leading up to bed, thus compromising your metabolic rate overnight.
  • Fried Foods – While they may taste good, fatty foods are full of calories due to high amounts of saturated fat. A diet heavy on fried foods also puts you at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disorders and even some cancers.
  • High-Carb Foods – A high-carb diet will help boost your metabolism in the form of heightened energy but it dissipates quickly as many high-carb foods digest faster than proteins and fats. As a result, you frequently feel the need to eat more for another energy boost, which can lead to weight gain.
  • High-Protein Foods – While many sources of protein can speed up your metabolism, foods high in protein can sit in your stomach for hours at a time, disrupting the restful sleep necessary for weight loss.
  • High-Sugar Foods – Diets high in sugar are less filling and easier to overindulge in than many other foods due to the sweet, appetizing taste. High-sugar foods also spike insulin levels, which stimulates hunger and the desire to consume even more sugar, leading to a vicious cycle that can cause weight gain.
  • Spicy Foods – Even a few drops of hot sauce may be all that's needed to stimulate your body enough to keep you up at night with stomach-related problems. And when you're awake when you should be sleeping, your metabolism isn't working at the rate it needs to in order to burn calories overnight.
  • Large Portions of Food – Eating too much food in one sitting several times per day puts your digestive system on overload, as it takes up to three hours to digest even a moderate portion of food. Sticking to smaller portions and perhaps a small snack before bedtime will actually increase your metabolism and lead to greater weight loss over time.

The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Buffalo Hot Wings

Food Type:

Spicy Food


While spicy foods like Buffalo Hot Wings may speed up your metabolism, it doesn't help much when you're kept awake at night with an upset stomach. Generally speaking, spicy foods and dishes are best eaten earlier in the day.

Buffalo Hot Wings - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Dark Chocolate

Food Type:

Caffeinated Food


Dark chocolate is touted for its antioxidant properties but it's not the best bedtime snack as it contains stimulants like caffeine that can keep you up at night, thus inhibiting weight loss.

Dark Chocolate - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Fruit Juices

Food Type:

High-Sugar Drink


Believe it or not, fruit juices aren't much healthier than sodas as the sugar content is practically just as high! Moreover, juices like orange juice contain loads of unnecessary calories that are better consumed as food.

Fruit Juices - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Ice Cream

Food Type:

High-Carb Food; High-Sugar Food


While Breyer's and Haagen Dazs may seem like obvious no-no's, ice creams made from coconut milk or yogurt are also best avoided as many contain sugar additives or triglycerides that don't metabolize well for weight loss at night.

Ice Cream - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Pastries

Food Type:

Fried Food; High-Carb Food; High-Sugar Food


Sure, pastries taste delicious but they usually contain ingredients that won't help you with your weight goals, such as saturated fats, refined flour, and high amounts of sugar and calories.

Pastries - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Pizza

Food Type:

High-Carb Food


When it comes to heartburn and other types of indigestion, few foods match pizza. The high-fat content of cheese and pizza toppings like pepperoni combined with the acidity of tomato sauce is enough to rob you of restful sleep and thus weight loss.

Pizza - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Red Meat

Food Type:

High-Protein Food


While red meat is a good source of protein and nutrients, it's also high in saturated fat, which can lead to lighter, less restorative sleep. Lean cuts, however, may be okay but only in moderation.

Red Meat - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

White Bread, Pretzels, and Refined-Grain Crackers

Food Type:

High-Carb Food; High-Sugar Food


Any foods made from refined grains are harder to digest and thus not advised before bedtime. Moreover, they contain simple carbs that lead to a sluggish metabolism, which can make you feel hungry again after a short time.

Pretzels - The Worst Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss

Resources & Further Reading

Now Over to You!

What's your favorite bedtime snack and/or what changes to your bedtime diet do you hope to make? Leave your comments below!

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