Harvard Health Publishing notes that it's best not to eat a large meal two to three hours before bedtime. The institution states, however, that when hunger pains hit at night, a slice of cheese and an apple before bed is a good example of a small nutritious snack that will satisfy the appetite until morning.
Read more: Is It Bad to Eat Fruit Before Bed?
What Nutrients Do Apples Contain?
Apples are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, notes the University of Illinois Extension. Soluble fiber helps prevent cholesterol buildup in the arteries, which reduces the risk of heart disease. The insoluble fiber facilitates the movement of wastes through the digestive tract.
The fruit also contains vitamin A, vitamin C and folate, as well as potassium, phosphorus, iron and calcium, states the extension. Apples are devoid of sodium and are naturally low in calories, so if you opt to eat an apple as a nighttime snack, you've made a healthful choice.
A September 2016 report in the EXCLI Journal notes that apples, like other fruits and vegetables, contain anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-diabetic properties. Daily apple consumption has been linked to protection against an array of diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and several types of cancer.
Since apples are rich in polyphenols, they may also promote weight management, slow aging and offer help in the prevention of Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease, the report notes. The authors wrote that their review of research on the fruit lends credence to the old adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
The report emphasizes the importance of eating the skin when enjoying an apple before bed. It contains insoluble fiber, and approximately half of the vitamin C content lies immediately underneath. Vary the colors of the apples you choose so you can ingest the pigments in green, yellow and red peels.
The flavor of apple varieties ranges between tart and sweet, while the texture ranges from crisp to soft — ensuring you'll be able to find some that suit your taste preferences.
Eat Kiwi Fruit Before Bed
A September 2016 investigation published in Advances in Nutrition reviewed the body of research that examined the effects of dietary elements on sleep. It found that one of the best foods to eat before bed may be kiwi fruit. Evidence shows that consuming two kiwi fruits an hour before going to bed improved rest in people with sleep disorders and enhanced sleep quality in healthy people.
According to the authors of the review, the kiwi fruit's plentiful content of serotonin, antioxidants and folate might contribute to the sleep benefits. Because the fruit is a source of the antioxidants vitamin C and E, it may protect against oxidative stress, which is linked to disordered sleep. Folate deficiency is tied to insomnia, and serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that fosters sleep.
Eat Nut Butters Before Bed
Another bedtime snack option is a small amount of nut butter, a food rich in protein. Cleveland Clinic recommends eating 1 teaspoon of almond butter before bed because the content of monounsaturated fat will satiate hunger when the munchies hit. Alternatively, the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) suggests eating a bit of peanut butter, because it's a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin.
Peanut butter spread on a few whole-grain crackers is one of the snacks that the National Sleep Foundation suggests eating a half hour before bedtime. The complex carbohydrates in the crackers will work with the tryptophan in the peanut butter to promote restful sleep.
When shopping for nut butters, avoid the low-fat versions because the fat is replaced with sugar, advises the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Instead, try to find a natural peanut butter, which will have monounsaturated fat rather than trans fat.
Eat Melatonin Foods Before Bed
The National Cancer Institute defines melatonin as a hormone made by the brain that helps control the body's sleep cycle. A 2017 study featured in Nutrients reports that eating melatonin-rich foods could help promote sleep by helping to augment the amount that is naturally produced in the brain. Any food that causes sleepiness is an ideal snack before bed.
The Advances in Nutrition review named tart cherries as one of these foods. Aside from the content of melatonin in the cherries, they have anti-inflammatory properties that may promote sleep. Tart cherries also have antioxidants that may boost rest quality by reducing oxidative damage.
In a small August 2013 study of 12 men published in the Journal of Pineal Research, scientists made a discovery involving tropical fruits. The consumption of melatonin-containing oranges, bananas and pineapples increased serum melatonin levels.
Bastyr University reports that other food sources of melatonin include nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs and beans. The authors advocate eating a small handful of nuts at bedtime if you wake up frequently during the night. Just be careful not to eat too much.
Research on Eating at Bedtime
In a small June 2017 study involving nine adults, the findings showed why it isn't advisable to eat an entire meal late at night. According to a press release published in Penn Medicine News, eating close to bedtime results in increases in cholesterol levels and weight gain. The practice can also adversely affect hormonal markers related to diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.
A small October 2018 study of 10 participants published in the British Journal of Nutrition names cottage cheese as a good bedtime snack. The researchers concluded that consuming 30 grams, or 2 tablespoons, of protein 30 minutes prior to bedtime had no negative consequences. Conversely, it had a positive effect on metabolism, muscle quality and general health.
Findings from the two studies don't contradict each other. They show that if you eat before bedtime, it's simply important to make sure it's a small amount of cottage cheese or another healthy food rather than a full meal.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "8 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Apples and More"
- EXCLI Journal: "Apple as a Source of Dietary Phytonutrients: An Update on the Potential Health Benefits of Apple"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality"
- Cleveland Clinic: "4 Late-Night Snacks That Are Actually Good for You"
- National Nutritional Foods Association: "Should You Eat Peanut Butter Before Bed?"
- National Sleep Foundation: "Foods to Eat for a Good Night's Sleep"
- Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: "8 'Healthy' Foods That Aren't Actually Healthy"
- National Cancer Institute: "Melatonin"
- Nutrients: "Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin"
- Journal of Pineal Research: "Serum Melatonin Levels and Antioxidant Capacities After Consumption of Pineapple, Orange or Banana by Healthy Male Volunteers"
- Bastyr University: "5 Ways to Get Better Quality Sleep Naturally"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Pre-Sleep Protein in Casein Supplement or Whole-Food Form Has No Impact on Resting Energy Expenditure or Hunger in Women"
- Penn Medicine News: "Timing Meals Later at Night Can Cause Weight Gain and Impair Fat Metabolism"
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium