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Healthy Bedtime Snacks: The Best Foods to Help You Sleep Better

An image of someone holding a bowl of cerealDo you often feel hunger pangs during the latter part of the evening? You also probably know that late-night snacking could lead to obesity, blood sugar issues, and even cardiometabolic conditions. Unless, of course, you purposely choose healthy bedtime snacks! Eating the right snacks can promote a better quality of sleep, help balance your blood sugar, and help you avoid adding unwanted weight.

So, which foods should you avoid, and which fall under the category of healthy bedtime snacks?

The Neuroaffect Circuit, Sleep, and Stress

Certain foods not only increase your risk of developing certain health issues, but they also interfere with your Neuroaffect Circuit. In so doing, they may have a negative influence on your ability to sleep and quality of sleep.

Your body needs enough quality sleep to recover from stress. Stress is a normal part of life and it's healthy in the right doses, but chronic or severe stress can interfere with your sleep. Stress increases production of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your adrenal glands to get you ready to fight or flee. But when this and other stress hormones are high, you may find it harder to sleep.

Besides seeing an increase in your stress hormone production, during stressful periods you may also experience a decline in serotonin and melatonin production. Serotonin is the precursor of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.

You may also experience an imbalance in your brain’s neurotransmitter function during times of stress. Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers between the various parts of the brain’s Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the starting point of your body’s NeurEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response.

Thus, stress can cause havoc on your body’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that determines your waking and sleeping patterns.

Some foods can promote the production of cortisol and lead to imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitter function, especially when consumed before bedtime. Others, however, may have a beneficial effect.

Foods to Avoid Before Bedtime

For some reason, many people experience food cravings later in the evening. And unfortunately, these cravings are often for unhealthy foods like carbohydrates, salty foods, and sugary foods. Research suggests this may be a throwback to prehistoric times when the body stored fat as a means of survival when food was scarce. But we do not need this extra fat these days, and we do not experience extended periods of food shortages. So, to satisfy these cravings, healthy bedtime snacks are a better option.

Generally, you should avoid foods high in carbs, sugar, caffeine, and fried foods, because they will spike your blood sugar, keep you up, or are hard to digest. Foods one should avoid as late-night snacks include:

  • High-carbohydrate foods, including white bread, pastries, and cookies.
  • Fried foods like French fries because of the high-fat content and difficulty your body has in breaking them down and digesting them.
  • High-calorie foods like potato chips also have a high fat and salt content.
  • Alcoholic beverages, because they inhibit your ability to have restorative sleep.
  • Beverages with a high caffeine content, as caffeine act as a stimulant and disturb your sleep cycle.
  • Chocolate due to the high sugar and caffeine content.
  • Ice cream, because it is high in saturated fats and sugar. It can increase your blood sugar levels making sleeping difficult and triggering more cravings that could result in overeating and weight gain.

Healthy Bedtime Snacks: Nutrients That Enhance Sleep

Healthy bedtime snacks, however, contain compounds that can help enhance your sleep.


Magnesium may help with relaxation. This nutrient plays a significant role in the regulation of the neurotransmitters associated with sleep and melatonin. It also helps regulate and soothe your nervous system.


An image of sleep-enhancing foodsPotassium plays a role in most of your body functions.

In the brain, it plays a significant role in the sending of messages between individual cells and organ systems. Anxiety and sleep disorders are two symptoms of low potassium levels in your body.


High protein foods as a healthy bedtime snack may help you fall asleep easier and sleep better if your protein intake for the day was low. They also help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you feeling full through the night.


Melatonin can be found in both plants and animals. In humans, it is made in your brain’s pituitary gland at night. The hormone is associated with your body’s sleep-wake cycle.


Healthy bedtime snacks that contain tryptophan may improve sleep. This is because tryptophan, an amino acid, plays a role in serotonin and melatonin production.


Calcium is required for your body to produce melatonin from tryptophan and therefore helps promote sleep.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps to relax both mind and body. In so doing, it encourages sleep. People suffering from insomnia often have low GABA levels.

Vitamin B6

Literature indicates a vitamin B6 supplement may help you fall asleep quicker and enhances your sleep quality. There is a strong link between vitamin B6 deficiency, sleep issues, and infertility.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a role in melatonin production. Low vitamin B12 levels have been linked to disrupted sleeping patterns.

Vitamin C

Literature suggests that vitamin C may help boost your sleeping experience. Furthermore, it may help address restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes disturbed sleep in many people, especially the elderly.

Healthy Bedtime Snack Ideas

Many healthy bedtime snacks contain one or more of the nutrients described above. Including them in your late-night-snacking regimen may help you fall asleep faster while improving your overall quality of sleep. Some of these snacks include:

Fruit is a Great Healthy Bedtime Snack

Several fruits have compounds that may promote better sleep.

  • Bananas: Bananas are high in serotonin which converts into melatonin.
  • Cherries: Tart cherries have anti-inflammatory properties and contain melatonin. They are also high in tryptophan which promotes melatonin production in your body.
  • Kiwi fruit: Low in calories, but high in fiber, kiwis can help boost serotonin production, help curb cravings, and promote sleep. Kiwis are also high in vitamin C.
  • Pineapple: Pineapples may significantly boost your melatonin levels.
  • Goji berries: Goji berries are rich in antioxidants and can boost your melatonin.
  • Strawberries: Strawberries are a good vitamin C source and also contain melatonin.
  • Oranges: High in vitamin C, oranges can also increase your melatonin levels.

Nuts and Seeds are Great Healthy Bedtime Snacks

  • Almonds (and almond butter): Almonds contain melatonin and are a good source of healthy fats, magnesium, and vitamin E.
  • Pistachios: Pistachios have a high melatonin content; one handful contains about 6.5 grams of melatonin.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan and magnesium.
  • Cashews: These nuts are a good source of magnesium and potassium.
  • Walnuts: Walnuts may help with serotonin synthesis in your body.

Milk Products are another Healthy Bedtime Snack

An image of milk products

  • Milk: Milk is a reliable source of tryptophan and melatonin. The idea that a glass of warm milk before bedtime helps promote better sleep is not an old wives' tale.
  • Cheese: The protein in cheese is a rich source of tryptophan.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt is rich in protein, calcium, vitamins B6 and B12, GABA, and magnesium.

When considering milk products as healthy late-night snacks, use low-fat milk and unsweetened yogurt. You could also use milk or yogurt in a late-night smoothie with some of the fruits mentioned.

Whole Grains are Good Healthy Bedtime Snack

Warm cereals are not just a terrific way to start the day. You can enjoy them in the evenings as well. Oatmeal, for example, has high fiber content and is a natural source of melatonin.

Other good whole grain choices include barley, oats, and rice. For example, you could try whole-wheat crackers with cheese, sliced fruit, or nuts for a healthy late-night snack.

Lastly, Protein for a Healthy Bedtime Snack

  • Chicken or turkey: The tryptophan in chicken and turkey helps with serotonin production.
  • Eggs: Eggs are a good source of vitamin D, tryptophan, and melatonin.

In Closing

Many foods qualify as healthy late night snacks. They take care of hunger pains before bedtime but can also help improve your quality of sleep.

If you have hunger pangs before bedtime, here are a few snack ideas:

  • Consider having a handful of nuts before bed.
  • Make a bedtime smoothie with either low-fat milk or unsweetened yogurt using some of the fruits mentioned.
  • Consider making yourself a whole grain wrap filled with some cheese, chicken, or eggs (or a combination).

If you would like to know more about different healthy bedtime snacks and how different foods can help balance your circadian rhythm, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your concerns and options. Alternatively, please send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2022 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Healthy midnight snacks provide adrenal support indirectly. They may help improve nutrition, hormone production, and boost your sleep quality. They are packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, B vitamins, and amino acids that help your body rest and repair. This is just what your body needs if it struggles with adrenal fatigue.

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