We have all felt prone to midnight snacking. We can try to eat better dinners, drink more water or even lock our fridges, but somehow, we end up snacking. Unfortunately, these late-night snacks are usually unhealthy and leave us wishing we had made better snacking decisions. The answer to making better decisions regarding late-night snacks may be as simple as getting better sleep.
Dangers of Late-Night Snacking
Late-night snacking, while enjoyable at the moment, is often a very unhealthy habit that can lead to undesirable results over time. The body’s naturally rising and falling cycle of energy, called the circadian rhythm, can often mean that a snack in the afternoon is helpful to keep us engaged and productive. However, the same cannot be said about snacking late at night, especially when close to sleeping.
According to dietician Melissa Rifkin, you should avoid eating a snack within two hours before going to bed to avoid disrupting your sleep and gaining weight. This is because your body is not meant to eat and sleep simultaneously. Thus, eating before sleeping disrupts your body’s natural rhythm to calm down before bed.
This disruption of your body’s natural energy rhythm can cause several harmful health effects. First and foremost, this habit can disrupt your sleep, making it harder to get the rest your body needs at night. However, worse sleep is not the only downside, as several studies have found that late-night snacking results in increased blood pressure and blood sugar, changes in metabolism, and weight gain.
These effects are worsened by most people’s habit of choosing unhealthy snacks for their late-night cravings. According to a study of 20,000 Americans, those who were not meeting the sleep recommendations of a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, often chose sweets, alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages. This makes up two-thirds of their evening caloric intake.
Researchers believe the correlation between poor sleeping habits and weight gain is explained through choosing poor snacking choices which result in poor sleep. This is a cycle of poor sleep leading to poor decisions and poor decisions leading to poor sleep and poor snacking choices.
Better Sleep Leads to Better Snacking
However, fixing our poor sleeping habits can mend our poor snacking habits. The key to fixing our poor habits is always creating healthy patterns and rhythms. Such patterns have been associated with healthier snack choices. Researchers found that participants who were meeting sleep recommendations typically ate lower quantities of snacks with greater nutritional value and lower calories.
The best way to improve your lifestyle is to sleep at least seven hours a night and avoid snacking two hours before bed.
Best and Worst Snack Choices for Late-Night Snacking?
Good Snack Choices
While you should avoid large meals and snacks late at night before bed, if you are hungry before bed, it’s not wrong to have a healthy snack so long as you make good choices.
The key tip from dieticians is to avoid highly processed foods, sugary foods, alcohol and foods with more than 200 calories. Great foods for late-night snacking that won’t negatively affect your body include fresh and tart berries like cherries, yogurt and foods that support healthy sleep by containing magnesium and tryptophan like pumpkin seeds, nuts and cheese. By choosing these foods, you will satisfy your hunger without compromising your sleep and health.
Snack Choices to Avoid
There are several foods you should be careful to avoid if your stomach starts rumbling late at night. Foods to avoid include ice cream, chocolate, potato chips and fried food. Because these foods are high in fat, calories and sugar, they can disrupt your body’s ability to go to sleep and stay asleep.
A Parting Reminder
Ultimately, avoiding late-night snacks will help you sleep better and lead to making better snack decisions. However, if you’re starving late at night, it’s okay to snack so long as you make healthy decisions that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.