After the stress of a busy day, endless to-do lists replay in our head keeping us awake in bed. Kids often waken in the middle of the night. So for an uninterrupted eight hours of shut-eye, try snacking.
Snacking? Yes, a light bite before bed can keep the tossing and turning at bay. Conventional wisdom warns us against snacks altogether in order to keep our waistlines trim and advice claims we shouldn’t eat after dinner. But contrary to that belief, a little treat before bed can actually help ensure a full night of beauty rest. In fact, the stress of sleep deprivation could lead to extra pounds, according to studies. As an added incentive, certain ingredients in foods actually make us drowsy.
Anyone who is a light sleeper or struggles with insomnia could discover that eating a late-night snack keeps the metabolism humming. In fact, a popular diet tip these days encourages small snacks between meals. Tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid in turkey and other foods, is a key ingredient in sleep.
Children may not suffer from worryfilled sleeplessness, but they may wake up with a bad dream. Toddlers’ small stomachs could use a little something to tide them over until breakfast. Kids who are experiencing growth spurts may need the extra calories, too. With children getting over-stimulated with sweets and physical activity, including a healthy snack with their bedtime ritual can be effective in helping them settle down.
Try these guilt-free nibbles before bedtime for a good sound snooze:
- Half a banana and a few raw almonds
- Peanut butter and apple slices
- Cheddar cheese on a whole wheat cracker
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Low-fat yogurt with fresh berries
- A teaspoon of hummus with sliced cucumbers
- A serving of cherries
- Whole-grain toast with almond butter
- Whipped warm milk
- Chamomile tea has a soporific effect
Mix up the combinations to suit your taste, serve sliced bananas with peanut butter, apples with cheese or almonds with cherries.
These foods provide a relaxing effect for various reasons. Seeds and cheese contain tryptophan, which converts to melatonin in our system to promote sleep. There’s also melatonin in cherries and bananas. Almonds have a slight muscle relaxing effect, and dairy products contain calcium, which aids a tranquil sleep.
The complex physiological reactions between food and sleep involve combining tryptophan and melatonin with carbohydrates to create a calm feeling by boosting serotonin production. Adding a small amount of protein keeps blood sugar levels stable and a full feeling, which assists in maintaining a deep sleep through the night.
Food and drink to avoid at night
Kids are tempted to reach for a cookie before bed but this high-sugar carb will create a crash after a temporary energy boost–just the opposite of what is needed before bed. It’s like that cup of coffee or tea to get through the evening. The following items should be consumed no later than midday to prevent troubled sleep patterns:
- Coffee, caffeinated teas and soda drinks
- Chocolate—with both sugar and caffeine
Remember to keep snacks low-fat and low-sugar any time of day. Highprotein, especially at night, will make digestion sluggish.
Other tips to keep in mind: Make portions small—think cheese sticks and a teaspoon of peanut butter. A snack is a holdover—not a meal. Also, eat 45 minutes to an hour before hitting the hay. Have fun preparing dishes with your children and add a cherry on top, literally (for a touch of melatonin). Share the treats with your whole family to enjoy the benefits and ensure a dreamy night’s rest.