Health and Fitness: Sleepless nights linked to late-night snacking

It’s 11 p.m. on a Thursday and your stomach is growling. You just finished watching Jersey Shore in your dorm room with a bunch of friends and you’re impatiently sitting on your bed, looking around and waiting for someone to say the magic words: Bronc Diner.

While you’re walking across the campus mall, your mouth is salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs as you think about the chicken tenders you are about to devour. One of your friends suggests you share cheese fries and you happily oblige.

As you walk back to your room with your newly made food baby, you feel content with the fullness in your stomach.

Fast forward to 2:30 in the morning and you are on your computer, completely bug-eyed and unable to sleep.

You sigh in frustration; here begins another sleepless night. You can’t help but think, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal and sleep when I’m supposed to?”

The problem here is not you, but what you ate right before you attempted to go to bed. What you eat before you go to sleep can affect the quality of your sleep, according to the Oct. 13 Yahoo! article “What to Eat (And What to Avoid) for a Good Night’s Sleep.”

The best type of food to eat before going to bed is complex carbohydrates. Instead of going to the diner, just heat up a bag of popcorn or oatmeal. The article stated that complex carbs stimulate the release of serotonin, which slows down your brain and makes you feel more relaxed, allowing you to fall asleep easily.

In order to get a good night’s sleep you should stay away from eating foods that are high in fat and protein. An example of this would be food from the diner or Domino’s. Chicken tenders, fries and mozzarella sticks are deep-fried, and pizza is fatty and greasy. Although they may be delicious and nice treats to eat on certain occasions, those foods are not ideal to eat late at night if you want a good sleep.

The article also mentions that protein contains amino acids that perk up your brain, making you more alert, so it’s a good idea to avoid snacking on foods that are high in protein right before bedtime.

Complex carbs are great nighttime foods and so are foods that contain melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone in the body. People with sleep disorders actually take melatonin to help them get some shut-eye. Some foods that naturally contain melatonin are sunflower seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, bananas, grapes and cherries.

If your body craves sugary and greasy foods late at night, and you feel as if eating healthy foods won’t satisfy you, then you probably aren’t eating enough throughout the day.

A lot of people tend to skip breakfast or eat very little food in the first half of the day and then eat a lot in the second half. If you don’t eat consistently throughout the day, you are going to end up making unhealthy snack choices at night, thus causing you to have trouble falling asleep.

The next time you want a snack before bed but don’t want to stay up late, put down the chicken tenders and heat up a bag of popcorn.

– Paige McAtee

Junior journalism major

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