What should you eat before bed?
Nothing. Herbal tea. Water.
This answer might sound flippant, but really, most of us don’t need food after dinner and before bed, especially the type of foods one typically eats after dinner. You know what I am talking about: all the bad foods … wine, chips, popcorn, snack foods, etc. Sugar, alcohol, or a stuffed belly never improved the quality of anyone’s sleep. As I always tell my clients, “Nothing good is ever eaten after dinner.” I aim to eat within a 12-hour window: I eat between 8 am and 8 pm. (This window obviously reflects my lifestyle and could shift depending on your work schedule. It could be 7 am-7 pm or 9 am-9 pm. You pick the window, but the concept stands. Eat your food when your body needs fuel. It doesn’t need fuel to sleep.)
Now — as always — there is a caveat. The highly active individual who plans to do a “fasting” moderate to intense workout before breakfast, might benefit from a balanced snack of a few hundred nutritiously dense calories. (“Fasting” means the workout is done without a pre-workout snack.)
Back to my advice for the regular human and moderately active individual. Unless it is a special occasion, after dinner, enjoy a cup of herbal tea and then instead of thinking about food, start a sleep routine.
An individualized sleep routine is critical. Why? Because as you sleep your body and brain recover, and your hormones rebalance. Getting adequate sleep (both quality and quantity) is 100% a linchpin health habit; sleeping will help keep all of your other “health ducks” in a row.
Sleep has a compounding effect that improves mood and performance, strengthens the immune system, and increases the likelihood you will be able to say “no” to food. Sleep is key for optimal health and weight management. If you don’t sleep it is almost impossible to resist sugar, lose weight, and maintain an exercise program. Without sleep, most of us become a bottomless pit of cravings. Sleep regulates hormones like ghrelin (which makes you hungry), leptin (which makes you feel full), and stress/weight hormones such as cortisol and insulin.
Possible sleep routine components
- Turning off all screens 30 minutes to an hour before bed
- Making sure your bedroom is cool and DARK
- Doing something that is relaxing. Have a bath (an Epsom salt bath can be especially relaxing), meditate, or do some deep breathing, gentle yoga, stretching, or lie on a foam roller
- Drinking a soothing sleepy-time herbal tea such as chamomile or a tea with valerian root in it
- Having a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule
- Taking melatonin and/or magnesium
Also, remember that a good sleep starts in the morning. Prioritize exercise — make a conscious effort to sit less and move more throughout your day — AND stop consuming coffee 6 to 8 hours before bed.