Do you wake up between 1:00 am and 4:00 am?
Well chosen and healthy bedtime and late night snacks can help!
Waking between 1:00 am and 4:00 am often indicates having low blood sugar levels, pointing to low adrenal function, low cortisol and/or low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). If you suffer from adrenal fatigue syndrome and your cortisol levels are low, it’s quite common for blood sugar to drop during the night and during sleep.
That’s when you wake up one or more times, often at 2:00 or 3:00 am, with heart palpitations, racing mind, or in a state of panic. The result is disrupted sleep, increased stress and tiredness. Embarking on a program to recover from adrenal fatigue will ensure more sound sleep and normal energy levels.
You might’ve heard the advice that if you want to sleep better, you should stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. For many people this is true, but not if you have adrenal fatigue. For you, having a small snack just before bed or a late night snack can give a huge boost to your sleep quality and duration, as it helps to sustain the body’s night time blood sugar reserves.
By having small amounts of slow-burning foods before bed, your blood sugar won’t drop off too low during the night, helping you to sleep better. Moreover, you’ll feel more alert and rested throughout the following day, too, and your blood sugar levels will stay more balanced.
This highly effective strategy helps many people with adrenal fatigue to sleep more soundly.
Important: Adding a bedtime snack is helpful but is only a temporary solution undertaken while restoring the adrenal function so your adrenals are healthy enough to control your blood sugar effectively during the day and through the night.
Don’t go to bed hungry, have adrenal-friendly bedtime and late night snacks
When your blood sugar drops too low, adrenals release cortisol to rescue you, so you don’t go into a coma. That is a good thing, but it isn’t helpful when you’re trying to sleep. Needless to say, it’s highly beneficial when you don’t need your blood sugar ‘rescued’ in the middle of the night.
To relieve this type of sleep disruption having well chosen bedtime and late night snacks are often utilise to improve sleep. It’s best to have a light, carbohydrate-based snack right before bedtime balanced with some fat and protein.
Resistant carbohydrates (resistant starches) are the slowest to burn and are most suitable here, plus they also feed the gut bacteria. Examples include: cooked and cooled potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, oats and green bananas.
By having some slow-burning food before bed, your blood sugar won’t drop off in the night. You’ll sleep better and have lower blood sugar scores throughout the following day, too!
Try a few late night snack options below to see which ones work well for you. I tested them in my clinic and find they work for most people who suffer from blood sugar imbalances at night.
My top 7 bedtime and late night snacks
- Rice: 1-2 tablespoons of well-cooked white rice with full-fat coconut milk or cream, sprinkled with cinnamon (cinnamon helps to regulate blood glucose).
- Sweet potato: 1-2 tablespoons of room temperature (baked or boiled) sweet potato (e.g. dinner leftovers) with a small amount of organic butter blended in.
- Nut butter: 1-2 teaspoons of good quality nut butter (e.g. almond butter) on a small slice of toasted gluten-free bread or gluten-free crackers.
- Broccoli: A few pieces of steamed broccoli (high in chromium and fibre, both essential for blood glucose management), drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a small gluten-free cracker (quinoa, rice, buckwheat or amaranth).
- Coconut: 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or coconut cream with rice/quinoa flakes, sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Macadamia nut cream (my favourite!) – make the cream by soaking a cup of halved macadamia nuts for 1-2 hours. Drain, add fresh water and blend it until cream consistency. Use as a condiment/ dip with lightly steamed vegetables. Take 2 tablespoons of this cream before bed to balance blood sugar.
- Bone broth or grass-fed gelatin
- Bone broth (homemade is best) and gelatin are both high in glycine, a calming amino acid with sleep promoting effects. Recent studies have found that glycine ingestion before bedtime significantly improves sleep quality in many people, significantly enhancing the following elements: “fatigue, liveliness and peppiness, and clear-headedness”.
- Broth: Have 1 cup of meat or bone broth (see recipes here) with your evening meal or half an hour before sleep.
- Gelatin: Alternatively, dissolve a tablespoon of grass-fed gelatin in a soup you’re having for dinner, or make little jelly gummies as after dinner snack (see good recipes here).
Useful tip: It’s handy to keep snacks next to your bed to eat in the middle of the night, if needed. This way you don’t have to get up if your blood sugar levels drop at night, which can happen several times, and trigger the body to wake up suddenly. Each time you wake up, have another light snack from the bedtime and late night snacks list above.
Other foods that help to sleep deeper and longer
Kiwi fruit is rich in vitamin C, fibre and minerals, and now a number of studies have revealed that the fruit is also high in antioxidants and serotonin that may be beneficial in the treatment of the sleep disorders.
Another study showed that greater fibre intake predicted more time spent in the stage of “deep” or slow wave sleep. Higher saturated fat consumption was associated with less slow wave sleep. Greater sugar intake also was associated with more arousals from sleep.
To reap kiwi’s sleep benefits, have 2 kiwi fruits with a few nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, macadamia, etc.) one hour before bed to see if this works for you. Do this for at least a few nights in a row. Discover more fantastic health benefits of kiwi fruit in my post.
Goji berries, being high in natural melatonin, improve sleep quality, lessen fatigue and generate the feeling of wellbeing. Goji berries are not only delicious but also have many important and much needed nutrients such as antioxidants, amino acids, trace minerals, and vitamins, including A, B, C and E.
They are called “happy” berries as they are a very good source of lithium, a trace element beneficial for mental wellbeing and better moods.
Eaten on a regular basis, goji berries increase the feeling of being calm, happier and more content. Have a handful of good quality goji berries during the day or as a snack before sleep, combined with a few raw soaked almonds (which contain melatonin – a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain) and pumpkin seeds (which contain tryptophan – a calming and sleep-promoting amino acid).
Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that induces sleep and relaxation, potassium, magnesium (which is calming and relaxing) and beneficial carbohydrates – an ideal combination for a bedtime snack (see recipe below).
Banana tea recipe by Dr Michael Breus, a well-known sleep specialist: Take 1 organic banana and cut off the tips. Cut the banana in half (leave the peel on) and boil it in 2-3 cups of water for 5 minutes. Leave the liquid to cool down for 5-10 minutes, strain and drink the water 30 minutes before bed.
Foods containing natural melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain at night to help regulate our circadian rhythms, i.e., our daily light/dark cycles. Its production usually drops as we age, and this may contribute to the higher insomnia rates among the elderly.
Melatonin can be taken as a supplement; however, it’s only available by prescription in some countries, including Australia.
Please note that testing is required to determine the right dose of melatonin and make it as effective as possible without taking too much.
It’s much safer to obtain melatonin from some common foods, although the amount of melatonin present is relatively small. Foods highest in melatonin include:
- Goji berries (as discussed above)
- Nuts – walnuts, almonds
- Sour cherries (fresh or juice)
- Grains – rice and oats
- Vegetables – broccoli and tomatoes
- See a more detailed list here
Well chosen bedtime and late night snacks (often called midnight snacks) can make a big difference if you have insomnia and/or interrupted sleep related to blood sugar imbalances. When choosing bedtime snacks, have something that is rich in complex carbohydrates, resistant starch and protein.
Keep the portions small as recommended above and don’t go to bed immediately after having your snack, give your body a few minutes to digest. Chewing well is also super important as it will relax the mind, induce the relaxation response, and increase the nutritional effects of the food. Naturally, make sure you brush your teeth after snacking!
Have you tried bedtime and late night snacks to calm you down and sleep throughout the night? Which ones worked for you? Please share your experience with us below.
FREE DOWNLOAD – Sleep Guide
It comprises basic but key nutrition tips based on my clinical experience and research, to give you the most important, common sense steps and actions you can do right now to get sounder and more restful sleep tonight.
This FREE Sleep Guide (downloadable as a PDF) will provide you with key tips and guidance to significantly improve your sleep fast, especially if you’re struggling with fatigue, adrenal fatigue, anxiety or hypoglycemia.
Natural and Lifestyle Solutions for Chronic Diseases
Naturopath || Herbalist || Nutritionist || Reiki Practitioner
Check out other posts here:
- Top nutrition tips for insomnia and interrupted sleep
- Adrenal fatigue treatment: The Kalish Method in Australia
- Foods and home remedies for deep sleep
- Drinking coffee: pros and cons from a medical perspective
- Holy basil: a key herb for stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue
Joanna Sochan is a Natural Medicine Practitioner and founder of Naturimedica Holistic Health & Wellness. She has a passion for helping her clients transform their lives by becoming healthy and well naturally. Joanna is an adrenal fatigue, sleep and gut health expert helping tired, stressed or unwell individuals to regain their energy, sleep better and be happier, more relaxed and calm. Joanna practices in Sydney and Lake Macquarie, Australia and also conducts Skype / phone consultations for clients Australia-wide. View full bio.