It’s hard to ignore cravings at any time, but when they occur in the middle of the night, it gets even more challenging. As hard as you might try to eat healthily throughout the day, it’s much harder to maintain that willpower late at night.
You might find yourself being woken up by cravings, leaving you tossing and turning around in bed to get comfortable, but all you can think about is your favorite snack in the kitchen cupboard. One bite won’t hurt, right?
Registered dietitian and founder at Senta Health, Ali Bandier, told Newsweek that the key to conquering those cravings is by incorporating “sleep-promoting nutrients like magnesium” into your diet, which can be done with one simple snack.
She said: “You can increase the levels of magnesium in your body by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, and lean proteins like chicken and sea food.
“Almonds are a great source of magnesium if you are concerned about being deficient, but just a one-ounce handful of almonds as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet should be enough to provide the benefits.”
Whether you’ve already tried eating your dinner later in the evening, increasing your intake of carbohydrates, or drinking more water throughout the day—a handful of almonds before you go to sleep could be the simple solution to cutting out nighttime snacking.
The body needs magnesium for a variety of reasons, including brain and heart function, as well as improved bone health. The National Institute of Health recommends between 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium per day for adult males, and women should get between 310 to 320 milligrams a day.
If the notion of eating a few almonds in the evening to help you sleep seems peculiar, it’s worth noting that the website, WebMD, says that one ounce of this healthy snack can contain almost 20 percent of your recommended daily magnesium intake.
So, a handful of almonds before bed could be the secret to getting an undisturbed sleep, without waking up feeling hungry once again.
How Can Almonds Help You Sleep Better?
Bandier, from New York, explained that magnesium can aid sleep by triggering the part of the nervous system which helps to promote relaxation.
“Magnesium is believed to aid in a restful night’s sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping you feel calm and relaxed. It also regulates melatonin, a hormone that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycles, which has also become a popular sleeping supplement on its own,” she said.
“Two thirds of the Western world may be deficient in magnesium, so almonds are a great source of this vital nutrient for this population.”
The autonomic nervous system comprises of two parts: sympathetic and parasympathetic. While the sympathetic nervous system fuels the body’s fight or flight response, the parasympathetic nervous system does quite the opposite, as it controls the body’s ability to relax.
The parasympathetic nervous system can help to regulate a person’s breathing by slowing down their heart rate, and aiding digestion to push food through the intestines.
The extra magnesium found in almonds can prompt the body to start winding down and relaxing, but it’s not just falling asleep that it can help with. A study looking into the effects of magnesium on sleep quality found that participants who took a 500-milligram supplement of the mineral experienced a deeper and longer sleep, compared to those who took the placebo.
While many foods contain magnesium, the added bonus that comes with eating almonds is that they’re also loaded with melatonin. This hormone regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle by promoting the circadian rhythm—essentially, your body clock.
As explained by The Sleep Foundation, melatonin is the sleep hormone, as it can help you drift off to sleep, as well as maintaining good quality rest throughout the night.
Ways To Incorporate More Almonds
Bandier, who has worked at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and helped many families improve their nutrition, adds that almonds are filled with healthy properties, aside from magnesium and melatonin. “They also contain fiber, vitamin E, calcium, and healthy fats,” she continued.
Eating almonds at any point in the day is highly recommended, as the body can reap their benefits at all times. However, if you’re specifically looking for ways to aid sleep and overcome any late-night cravings, almonds are best eaten in the evening.
Bandier said: “To aid in sleep, foods with magnesium can be eaten anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. Following a proper bedtime routine, snacking on a handful of almonds, or incorporating them as part of your dinner may help ease you into a relaxing evening and, in turn, support better sleep.”
If grazing on a handful of almonds isn’t quite the appetizing evening snack you had in mind (because let’s be honest, chocolate is far more tempting), Bandier offers other ways of incorporating the nuts into your daily meals instead.
“Tryptophan and melatonin are both known to support better sleep quality. These nutrients can both be found in eggs, milk, and fish. Try incorporating these ingredients into your dinners to aid in a better night’s sleep,” she said.
“Almonds are also great when mixed into a Greek yoghurt, as a topping for overnight oats, a crunchy addition to a salad, or as almond butter spread on wholewheat toast.”
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