You won't be missing your cold pizza habit after giving one of these nutritious options a try.

By Laura Fisher and Betty Gold
August 25, 2020
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Getting a good night’s rest is one of the most important things we can do for overall health. But sometimes, even if we do everything right when it comes to getting our Zs, we still can’t hit those eight precious hours of rest and recovery. One of the most common culprits of tossing and turning in the middle of the night? Waking up hungry and not knowing how to quell that rumbling tummy. 

Is waking up hungry in the middle of the night normal? The truth is that if you’re eating a balanced diet, hunger is normally its lowest throughout the night and first thing in the morning. So if you’re waking up hungry in the middle of the night, studies suggest that you’re likely not getting all the nutrients your body needs.

"Just make sure to stop eating one to two hours before bedtime," says Dr. Teoflio Lee-Chiong, sleep expert and Chief Medical Liaison at Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care. "Eating before bed can disrupt sleep in those who do not typically eat before bedtime, partly due to discomfort related to gastric activity. Individuals who habitually eat before bedtime—due, for instance, to work or school schedules—should eat moderately and try to avoid large meals."

Dr. Lee-Chiong recommends eating a high-protein snack 1-2 hours before bed, like cottage cheese or yogurt with some nuts, or half an apple with almond butter. "A high protein diet is associated with improved sleep quality, whereas high fat diets may have a negative impact on total sleep time. In addition, certain foods, such as milk, cherries, and kiwi fruit have been reported in some studies to have sleep-promoting effects." Find all the best foods for sleep here.

Still waking up craving something to eat? Here are some healthy snack ideas you can reach for in the middle of the night to help you get back into a tranquil state.

Okay, this isn’t the most exciting snack option, but sometimes what we think of as hunger pangs are actually signs of dehydration. Drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see if the gnawing in your stomach subsides. Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day to avoid nighttime wake-up calls. 

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Water didn’t do it for you? Try having a bit of protein and carbohydrates to help satiate you. The key with the midnight snack is to keep it light enough that your body doesn’t have to work too hard to digest it, which will make it hard to drift back to sleep. Hummus is the perfect light source of protein with 3 grams per 2 tablespoons. Combined with a slice of whole wheat or sprouted bread and you have a satisfying snack that won’t send your body into overdrive. 

Popcorn is the perfect light, airy snack that satisfies cravings for salt and crunch without resorting to greasy potato chips. As a whole grain, corn will also digest more slowly than simple carbs like cookies or regular crackers, giving you a better shot at making it to morning without another wake-up. To avoid having to fire up the microwave in the middle of the night, try one of the healthy pre-bagged options on the market (bonus: no oily fingerprints on the bedding). 

RELATED: 8 Common Mistakes That Are Costing You Z’s, According To A Sleep Consultant

Having a glass of warm milk before bed isn’t just an old wives tale. A University of Pennsylvania sleep study showed that calcium was associated with less difficulty falling asleep and an increase in deep, restorative sleep. Try greek yogurt for an extra hit of satiating protein, just make sure to choose a low-sugar variety. 

You might know tryptophan as the culprit in turkey that leads to that post-Thanksgiving coma. It turns out that tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin and melatonin in the body (i.e. the perfect sleep cocktail), is found in a lot more than just the bird. One easy and delicious way to get a dose of tryptophan in the middle of the night is with a pantry staple: peanut butter. Spread it on a piece of whole wheat or sprouted bread, or slather it on a banana. Or hey, it’s midnight— there’s no one to judge you if you just grab a spoon and go straight for the jar.