BRB, headed to the grocery store.
Even if you had a delicious dinner, sometimes it’s hard to resist a pre-bedtime snack. Depending on what you grab out of the fridge when it comes to sleep, your evening bite can work for or against you.
You probably already know that, for some people, having a cup of coffee too late in the day can disrupt sleep. But it’s not just caffeine that has an impact. Just like certain ingredients can make falling asleep more difficult, some can work in your favor, actually priming the body for rest.
One snack in particular that can help is a simple combo of a slice of turkey and a hard-boiled egg. Why are these two foods in particular so beneficial for sleep and what can you nosh on instead of you don’t eat meat? Keep reading to find out.
Related: Why You Should Try a ‘Coffee Nap’—and Other Surprising Tips on How to Sleep Better
Why a Turkey and Egg Combo Is the Perfect Bedtime Snack
In general, sleep expert Dr. Carleara Weiss, PhD, says that evening snacks should be both nutritious and light. If you eat too much before going to bed, your body will be working to digest your food when it should be resting. But you don’t want to go to bed hungry either. The protein in both the slice of turkey and the hard-boiled egg helps with satiety without overloading the body.
“Protein is a great way to fill your belly, but too much protein, especially animal-based protein, can be hard to break down and cause disturbance in the beginning and middle of the night,” says Dr. Joshua Tal, PhD, a licensed psychologist and sleep expert.
Related: 7 Important Reasons to Get a Good Night’s Rest
Dr. Weiss says that ideally, a bedtime snack will be a low-calorie combination of protein and healthy carbohydrates. A slice of turkey and a hard-boiled egg check off both boxes. “Turkey is a great sleep-promoting food because it contains tryptophan, a precursor to vitamin B3 and serotonin,” says Dr. Tal. He explains that vitamin B3 and serotonin work together to help with relaxation and sleep. As for the egg, Dr. Tal says that this food also contains tryptophan and also has melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating wakefulness and suppressing it at nighttime to lead to sleep.
Related: Here’s Exactly How Many Hours of Sleep You Really Need Every Night, According to Experts
Other Foods That Can Help With Sleep
But what if you’re vegan or don’t like turkey or eggs? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other foods that have a similar effect on sleep. Dr. Abhinav Singh, MD, FAASM, a medical review expert at SleepFoundation.org and the medical director of the Indiana Sleep Center, says that foods or drinks with dairy, potatoes, pistachios and cherries all also contain tryptophan too.
Dr. Singh adds that having a small snack with carbs may help prime the body for rest. In a 2019 study, a carb-dense snack was shown to increase sleepiness when consumed close to bedtime. The theory was that a quick rise in blood sugar followed by a quick crash was responsible for the sensation of fatigue and drowsiness,” he says. “So, really more than just the turkey it’s the carbs and tryptophan-containing foods that go with it, like mashed potatoes [or] bread, which can make you drowsy.” And to his earlier point, you can have a handful of nuts or a cheese stick instead of the turkey and you’ll get the same benefits.
What you don’t eat (or drink) in the evenings is just as important as what you do, when it comes to sleep. If you struggle with sleep, Dr. Tal recommends avoiding anything with caffeine, and foods high in sugar and alcohol. Contrary to what many think, drinking alcohol before bed does not help with sleep; it actually makes sleep more disruptive. If you are prone to acid reflux, Dr. Tal says it’s best to avoid eating anything with high acidity in the evenings too.
While a bedtime snack with protein, tryptophan and carbs can help prime the body for rest, all three experts emphasize that it isn’t a cure-all. If getting consistent, good sleep is something you struggle with, you’ll likely need more help beyond what anything in your fridge can offer.
“Our body works in a holistic and integrated approach. What we eat and drink, how much and when we exercise, our daytime and sleep routines, and how well we take care of our physical and mental health create a harmonic, or disharmonic, relationship that will impact sleep, metabolism, concentration and overall function,” Dr. Weiss says. “We should avoid focusing excessively on only one component, for example, diet, and try to change the whole picture.”
Dr. Tal adds to this, saying, “Changing your diet before bed can be helpful for falling and staying asleep, but if you have insomnia, it will likely not do much.” He recommends cognitive behavioral therapy to anyone struggling with insomnia or poor sleep regularly. It can also be a good idea to see a sleep doctor to find out if an underlying health problem could be contributing to your sleep problems.
A slice of turkey and a hard-boiled egg might not solve all your sleep problems, but if you’re looking for a snack that will work for you instead of against you, it’s one to remember. It’s certainly more delicious than a sleep supplement!
Next up, see six more ways to get better, deeper sleep.