8 snacks you don't have to avoid before bedtime


Marianna Kilburn
@MariannaKilburn


09 August 2018

1 – Bananas

If you’ve ever spent any time perusing our Get Active hub, the chances are you’ve already encountered bananas before. Usually our Get Active Advisor Gillian recommends them to keep you fuelled during a gruelling workout as bananas help to provide a slow, steady release of energy. However, this fruit doesn’t just help to get you powered up – it can also help you to wind down too!

Bananas, while being a great source of dietary fibre, are also rich in two essential minerals – potassium and magnesium as well as a pivotal amino acid, tryptophan. 

Magnesium you may already be familiar with as I talked about its particular benefits for sleep in my blog, ‘Is magnesium a miracle mineral for sleep?’ To summarise briefly, magnesium not only plays a role in relaxing your muscles and joints and nervous system, it also helps to regulate melatonin, the sleep hormone. Potassium, similar to magnesium, is known to help relax your muscles, preparing your body for sleep too!

Tryptophan on the other hand can be converted into serotonin, a sleep-boosting neurotransmitter! For this reason, bananas are a good option if you find your stomach growling just before bedtime.

Below are some of my favourite banana recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Healthy Banana Oat Cookies

Banana & Kiwi Smoothie

2 – Almonds

Almonds are often touted for their rich content of healthy fats but, when it comes to getting a decent night of sleep, they also have quite a few surprising benefits up their sleeve. For example, like bananas, almonds also contain plenty of magnesium which immediately enhances their capacity to boost your sleep. 

Unlike bananas though, almonds contain another secret weapon to support your sleep – the sleep hormone, melatonin. Melatonin is incredibly important for regulating your sleep/wake cycle and it’s the hormone that helps your body to feel tired at night, making you feel drowsy and ready for bed. 

Some studies have even been conducted to analyse the potential benefits of almonds, although they are somewhat limited as they mainly revolve around animal trials. One such experiment found that rats fed 400mg of almond extract slept longer and more deeply than the control group that did not consume any almond extract. It’s a small step in the right direction but ideally, more human studies are needed!1 

Below are some of my favourite almond recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Oat & Almond Breakfast Muffins

Homemade Muesli with Almond Milk

3 – Kiwis 

When you think sleep-boosting snack, the chances are kiwis don’t really come in at the top of your list; however, this surprising entrant definitely packs a punch when it comes to aiding your sleep. Primarily, kiwis are known for their content of vitamins C & K, however, like bananas they also contain a decent amount of potassium and are rich in serotonin, that sleep-boosting neurotransmitter I mentioned earlier! 

What makes kiwis so unique specifically is that they are rich in antioxidants that can help to battle oxidative stress. Vitamin C in particular can work as a natural anti-inflammatory agent which may calm your digestive system if this is an underlying problem! 

Again, like almonds, there have been some small studies conducted to assess the benefits of kiwis. The one that is usually referred to the most is the one directed by the School of Nutrition and Health Sciences at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan. This study examined 24 adults over a 4 week period and found that since eating two kiwi fruits one hour before bedtime each night, participants fell asleep 42% quicker compared to nights when they ate nothing at all. Even their ability to sleep through the night was improved by 5%!2 

Below is my favourite kiwi recipe that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Kiwi & Green Ginger Smoothie

4 – Sweet potatoes 

Sweet potatoes are rising in popularity, often being seen as a healthier alternative to your basic potato. This is mainly because these brightly coloured vegetables are high in dietary fibre, providing a good source of vitamin A, B and C as well as a whole host of other nutrients. As with many entrants on this list, two of these nutrients just so happen to be magnesium and zinc

This is a winning combination when it comes to sleep as these two minerals can work together, contributing towards the production of melatonin, as well as serotonin so it’s a win-win situation! Of course, I’m not saying you should tuck into a baked sweet potato with all the trimmings right before going to bed! Instead, this particular food might be best served as part of a balanced evening meal, helping to promote the secretion of these two valuable chemicals in the lead up to bedtime.

Below are my favourite sweet potato recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Sweet Potato & Kale Soup

Sweet Potato Canapés

5 – Walnuts

Walnuts are a popular addition to many sweet and savoury dishes and are highly prized for their rich content of essential fatty acids, being used in traditional medicines for many centuries. When it comes to sleep, these nuts contain the ever-popular amino acid tryptophan which as I’ve discussed has numerous benefits for your sleep. 

However, walnuts don’t just contain tryptophan, they also contain melatonin. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Health Centre, walnuts offer a decent amount of melatonin and are capable of increasing blood melatonin concentrations.3 This makes them a pretty decent snacking option if you’re feeling hungry before you go to bed!

Below are my favourite sweet potato recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Spicy Nut Roast

Coffee and Walnut Banana Loaf (Oil & Refined Sugar Free)

6 – Oily fish

If you’re not vegan or vegetarian, you’ve probably heard all about the incredible benefits of oily fish, from their content of omega-3 fatty acids (which, as I discuss in my blog, ‘Can omega-3 help to improve your sleep?’, contains its own sleep boosting properties!), to vitamins such as vitamin B6, which can help to convert tryptophan into melatonin.

Researchers have previously investigated oily fish when it comes to improving sleep quality, with a study that took place in Ecuador finding that a decent intake of oily fish was associated with better sleep quality.4 Again, I wouldn’t suggest tucking into a salmon steak before bedtime but, like sweet potatoes, this is an interesting option and oily fish can be incorporated into a variety of tasty dinner options!

Below are my favourite oily fish recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Grilled Honey Lemon Sardines with Herbed Rice

Coconut & Macadamia Crusted Salmon

7 – Oats

When it comes to eating breakfast cereals at night, I tend to fall on the side of caution. A lot of cereals, even the ones that claim to be healthy, contain a plethora of sugars and sweeteners that can easily disrupt your sleep pattern. However, oats are slightly different – they offer a complex source of carbohydrate and fibre and may even help you to get your forty winks!

Firstly, oats provide a slow, steady release of energy so unlike other cereals, you don’t have to worry about your blood glucose levels fluctuating too much. Similar to other entrants on this list, oats also help to stimulate the production of serotonin, easing your stress levels and helping you to achieve a more relaxed state of mind. Oats, like walnuts, are also a natural source of melatonin, so it’s hardly surprising that they can support your sleep patterns. Now of course, a big bowl of porridge before bed probably still isn’t the best idea but there are plenty of oat based snacks you might want to consider.

Below are my favourite sweet potato recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Blueberry & Oatmeal Smoothie

Easy No-Bake Orange Oat Bars

8 – Pumpkin seeds

Did you know that pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium?5  Considering the benefits of magnesium for sleep, it should come as no surprise that pumpkin seeds have also earned themselves a place on this list. Not only can they help to regulate your blood glucose levels, pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan.

The problem is, you would need to eat an incredible amount of pumpkin seeds to reap the benefits of the tryptophan. Not to worry though, as pumpkin seeds are also rich in zinc, this can help to convert tryptophan into melatonin! If you’re running a little low on magnesium, pumpkin seeds might be the ideal snack for you to indulge in before bedtime!

Below are my favourite pumpkin seed recipes that might help you to nod off easier before you go to bed!

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Bars

Roast Pumpkin with Crispy Sage

1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26711831

2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21669584

3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15979282

4https://www.reliasmedia.com/articles/141514-oily-fish-is-associated-with-better-sleep

5https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds#section5

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