At times, many of us find ourselves battling with that late night surge of hunger – we may have finished a meal a few hours before and yet those familiar hunger pains start. When it comes to late night snacks before bed, we can be faced with a veritable smorgasbord of unhealthy options; left over takeaway meals, a half-eaten block of chocolate or a bag of crisps tucked away in the back of the pantry.
Genuinely hungry or just bored?
These late-night cravings are not always best dealt with by ignoring them, forcing ourselves into bed or willing ourselves to sleep. Indeed, some doctors argue that going to bed when you are feeling genuinely hungry, can be problematic, lead to poorer sleep and increase the chances of waking up in the night.1 For those who may be feeling hungry out of boredom or stress instead of genuine hunger,2 the sound advice it seems is to try and distract ourselves, drink a few glasses of water, and if we must, reach for a healthy snack, instead of a high calorie, high fat option, whether our hunger is genuine or not.
This then begs the question – if me must indulge, whatever the reason, what are the best snacks to eat at night or before bed?
Any snacks before bed ideally should be low in calories. The reason for this is that high calorie snacks or additional heavy meals late in the evening typically increase the likelihood of weight gain and fat stores in the body, and may also exacerbate symptoms such as heartburn, in some people, due to the fact that you’re consuming additional food and calories on top of a previous evening meal.3
If it’s a genuine craving – what are my options?
If we need to address a genuine hunger late at night or before bed, a great option can be found in some wholefoods snacks, such as those containing chickpeas. Chickpeas pass the late-night health test with flying colours, not only because that are a good, healthy source of protein, carbohydrates and fibre, but because they contain Vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptophan.
Why is this helpful late at night? Vitamin B6 essentially helps our bodies to convert tryptophan into serotonin which in turns is converted to melatonin, and when melatonin levels rise in our bodies in the evening it can help put us into a state that promotes sleep.4
And for those that are looking to kick the late-night snack habit altogether and improve sleep overall, studies indicate that we can always tap into the B6 family of foods during the day to ward off disrupted sleep cycles.5 In fact, it seems that a daily ingestion of Vitamin B6 from food sources like chickpeas, have been shown to help encourage a sound and undisrupted sleep cycle6 which is more than enough reason to try snack foods that contain these high protein, B6 loaded legumes when you’re next looking for that late night snack before bed (san the calories or guilt the morning after!).
- https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-science/melatonin-for-sleep-does-it-work; https://purple.com/blog/10-surprising-foods-to-help-you-sleep-better