5 Late-Night Snack Ideas That Won't Mess With Your Sleep

Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
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.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
1. Banana Smoothie
A quick smoothie made with bananas, low-fat milk, and any other fruits you want to throw in there would be a great late-night option, Dr. Young says. The milk will give you just enough protein without being too heavy (as well as a bit of tryptophan). And the banana offers potassium, which can help you fall asleep.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
2. Crackers With Almond Butter
Whole grain crackers (or bread) with almond or peanut butter hit that perfect protein/carb ratio. Plus, Dr. Young explains that the nut butter comes with magnesium, which can ease any muscle cramps that may be keeping you awake.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
3. Yogurt With Cherries
Tart cherries are one of the few foods that naturally have melatonin in them, so feel free to have a few on their own. But if you need something a little more filling, Dr. Young suggests having them with a cup of yogurt. You might as well go Greek and get your probiotics too.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
4. Butternut Squash Soup
Anything warm will calm you down, so soup is often a good idea. But Dr. Young doesn't recommend anything too heavy or too full of fiber at night because they can be tough to digest. So hold off on your lentils and and opt for nutrient-rich butternut squash instead.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
5. Rice Cake With Cottage Cheese
Another excellent carb and protein combo, a rice cake with a bit of cottage cheese will leave you feeling full but comfy. You'll also get a healthy dose of calcium and tryptophan.
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