Snacking before bed can be a tricky business. Eat too much, and get ready for a night of tossing and turning. Eat too little, and you might find yourself devouring your entire kitchen at 3 in the morning. It’s no secret that steering clear of refined carbs and junky foods before bed is one of the best ways to avoid a sleepless night. But even noshing on healthy P.M. snacks can still mess with your sleep quality if you’re not careful.
The key to successful bedtime snacking? Balance. “Being overly full or starving is more likely to lead to sleep issues than any one particular food,” says registered dietitian Alex Caspero, R.D.
If you’ve yet to find your snacking sweet spot, one of these five mistakes could be why — here’s the intel you need to turn things around:
1. Getting carried away with portions.
Even when you eat healthy snacks before bed, such as pretzels and hummus or cheese and crackers, it’s easy to overdo it in the portion department. This sends the body into digestion mode, which can make it difficult to fall asleep (and stay asleep). “We need just enough to offer satisfaction, so we don’t wake during the night hungry,” says Caspero. The trick is to be strategic with your snack choices.
The fix: Choose snacks that are harder to overeat, such as pistachios. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try fruits like grapes or berries.
2. Ignoring your cravings.
When you’re craving dessert and attempt to resist it by snacking on healthier alternatives, you might find yourself consuming more calories in the long run, says Connecticut-based registered dietitian Alyssa Lavy, R.D. Because the healthy snack isn’t satisfying your craving, you might keep snacking to fill the void. This might lead to feelings of disappointment, which can cause stress, ultimately, disrupting sleep quality.
The fix: Indulge your dessert craving, stick to a reasonable portion — such as one or two cookies or 1/2 cup of ice cream.
3. Choosing a protein-heavy snack.