You've already been tossing and turning for a few hours when your stomach starts to grumble. If falling asleep was tough before, you know it'll be basically impossible if your tummy's empty, too. But if you reach for the wrong kind of food, your snack of choice might make it even harder for you to get your ZZZs. So what's a sleepy, hungry person supposed to do?
"Food can absolutely help [your sleep], and it can absolutely hurt," says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN, adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU Steinhardt. In general, large, protein-heavy meals tend to keep us awake because they take longer to digest, which can be physically uncomfortable. Alcohol and caffeine are also major late-night no-nos.
But when it comes to foods that help us fall asleep, Dr. Young says there's some variability from person to person, which means it may take some trial and error to find your perfect snack recipe. Foods that contain tryptophan (e.g. salmon and turkey) and melatonin (e.g. cherries) tend to calm us down. As do any warm drinks or soups, so feel free to heat up that glass of milk.
Beyond that, though, Dr. Young says "a good combination is a small amount of protein with carbs." Do your best to stick with whole grains and lean sources of protein, as these encourage the perfect digestion timing (not too fast and not too slow). But just because you're munching on brown rice doesn't mean you can still continue swiping through Instagram well beyond your bedtime and expect to wake up refreshed: Dr. Young says your other sleep hygiene habits will undoubtedly matter more than your meal choices.
Click through to see five examples of late-night snacks that won't keep you up — and might just lull you to sleep.