Hungry before sleep? Do’s and Dont’s for Better Sleep

Discover the dos and don’ts of pre-sleep snacking, including what to eat and what to avoid to ensure your late-night habits support a restful night's sleep.


Discover the dos and don’ts of pre-sleep snacking

It's a familiar scenario for many: the clock strikes late, and your stomach starts to rumble. Should you head to the kitchen, or is it better to ignore the pangs and wait until morning? 

This nighttime conundrum poses a dilemma, especially for those of us keen on maintaining optimal sleep hygiene. Feeling hungry before sleep can not only be uncomfortable but also potentially disruptive to our quest for quality rest. Addressing this is not just a case of satisfying our hunger; we must also understand how our late-night eating habits impact our sleep quality and overall health. 

As we explore the dos and don'ts of pre-sleep snacking, we'll discover how to cater to those evening cravings without compromising our slumber.

The interplay between hunger and sleep

Our bodies are complex systems where various physiological processes, including hunger and sleep, are intricately connected. Hunger signals are regulated by a mix of hormonal cues, which can influence and be influenced by our sleep cycles. 

Ghrelin and leptin, hormones responsible for hunger and satiety, fluctuate throughout the day and night, affecting our appetite and sleep quality. For instance, poor sleep (even for just one night) can lead to increased ghrelin levels and decreased leptin, ramping up hunger the following day.

Research from the British Journal of Nutrition further illuminates this relationship, finding that individuals consuming large meals close to bedtime experienced significant disruptions in their sleep patterns. These disruptions not only affect the duration of sleep but also its quality, leading to a restless night. This cycle of eating late and sleeping poorly can create a feedback loop, where one negative habit fuels the other.

The dos of pre-sleep snacking

When hunger strikes close to bedtime, not all snacks are created equal. Opting for the right kind of nighttime nibble can actually promote sleep, rather than hinder it. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, foods that are light yet satisfying, and contain sleep-supportive nutrients, can be a smart choice before bed.


Rich in potassium and magnesium, bananas help relax overstressed muscles and calm the nervous system. Magnesium, in particular, has been studied for its sleep-enhancing properties, acting as a natural relaxant that can lead to deeper sleep. The Sleep Charity highlights this as one of their top foods to eat to get a better sleep.


A handful of almonds offers a good source of magnesium and tryptophan, aiding in the reduction of muscle and nerve function while stabilizing your heart rhythm. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in many protein-rich foods, has been linked to improved sleep quality due to its role in serotonin production.


Specifically, tart cherries or tart cherry juice have been recognized for their ability to increase melatonin levels, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep cycles. One study on insomnia patients found that participants who consumed tart cherry juice reported higher sleep efficiency.

Whole grain crackers with hummus

Complex carbohydrates can promote the availability of tryptophan in the brain, while hummus provides a soothing dose of tryptophan itself—which we already know calms bodily functions and cardiovascular rhythms. This combination not only curbs hunger but also contributes to a more restful night's sleep.

Greek yogurt with honey

Greek yogurt is packed with calcium, which plays a key role in processing sleep-inducing hormones like tryptophan and melatonin. And the bonus ingredient, honey? A little drizzle can slightly raise insulin levels, allowing tryptophan to enter the brain more easily.

Choosing any of these snacks as a light pre-bedtime treat can not only satisfy late-night hunger but also assist in ushering in a night of restful sleep, making them smart additions to any evening routine.

The don’ts – foods to avoid before bed

While some snacks can nudge you into dreamland, others are likely to turn your night into a restless ordeal. Understanding which foods to avoid before hitting the hay is key for maintaining quality sleep.

Caffeinated products

Not drinking caffeinated products may sound obvious, but many people underestimate how the effects of caffeine can last. Consuming coffee, tea, chocolate, or energy drinks even in the late afternoon (around 6 hours before bedtime) can disturb your sleep that same night.

Heavy, rich foods

Eating foods high in fat or spice can lead to discomfort and indigestion, making it harder to fall asleep. A study found that consuming a large meal close to bedtime can lead to poorer sleep quality due to increased metabolic rate and digestion. WebMD suggests eating the likes of these meals at least 4 hours before bed. 

Sugary foods and simple carbs

Sweet cravings don’t lead to sweet dreams. Nutritionists featured in a Guardian article explain that consuming sugar spikes your blood sugar levels, leading to an unwelcome energy boost when your body is winding down for sleep. This surge, followed by a crash, disrupts your sleep cycle. 

Additionally, sugar consumption can deplete magnesium levels, an essential mineral for sleep, and it's advised to steer clear of late-night chocolate due to its caffeine and other stimulants. Essentially, a pre-bedtime sugar fix can leave you more energized than relaxed, negatively impacting your night's rest.

Alcoholic beverages

While alcohol might initially make you feel drowsy and ready to hit the hay, this sedative ironically disrupts your sleep cycle as it's metabolized, leading to fragmented sleep patterns. Studies have shown that alcohol negatively affects REM sleep, which is considered the most restorative phase, and can also worsen sleep apnea.

While we’ve pointed out which foods to avoid before bed, that’s not to say that they can’t be enjoyed in moderation earlier on in the day. To promote better sleep, finish eating at least 2-3 hours before going to bed, allowing your body to focus on resting rather than digesting as you wind down for the night.

How to tackle the late-night munchies

You don’t have to sacrifice your Z’s to enjoy a light snack before bed. Equipped with some knowledge and discipline, you can keep those hunger pangs at bay and fall asleep easier: 

  • Lean towards a snack rather than a feast when night calls. A light bite keeps the digestive drama at bay, making way for smoother slumber.
  • Turn to bedtime-friendly bites like bananas, almonds, and cherries. Packed with sleep-boosting nutrients, they're like lullabies for your tummy.
  • Sticking to a regular dining schedule tunes your hunger cues and sleep notes to harmonize. Eating like clockwork might just be the secret ingredient for top-quality sleep.
  • Ever mix up thirst for hunger? A lot of people do. Keeping well-hydrated clears up that confusion, guiding you to make smarter snack choices as twilight beckons.
  • Keeping an eye on your evening eats isn't just about what you munch on but also how and when. Embracing mindful eating illuminates the path to better sleep hygiene.

Be mindful of these tips during your nightly routine to ensure your stomach's satisfied and your dreams are sweet. It’s all about striking a balance between satiating your hunger and cradling your sleep.

The bottom line

Hitting the snack drawer before bed? Remember, bananas, almonds, and a splash of tart cherry juice can be your best buddies when the evening munchies hit. On the contrary, steering clear of that post-lunch espresso or slice of cheesecake can mean smoother sailing into dreamland.

Keeping your portions in check and choosing snacks wisely can make all the difference in your nightly rest. And let's not forget the power of staying hydrated and eating mindfully throughout the day to keep those 11 p.m. stomach growls at bay. Here's to snacking smart and sleeping tight!


Written by

Georgia Austin

Professionally trained copywriter, editor, and content marketing strategist with over 7 years of experience—working with brands like Nike, Siemens, Toshiba, Tommy Hilfiger, Culture Trip, and Klook.

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