It's 12 a.m. and you want a bologna sandwich. But you're a healthy man. You watch what you eat. You care about your body, dammit. So you forgo the snack and fall asleep, hungry and wanting. No more! Modern science has identified some awesome snacks that not only fill you up but also knock you out. Below, five forms of midnight mastication we can endorse.
Carbohydrates release serotonin, calming the brain. "A cup of oatmeal made with milk is the perfect snack before bed," says Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet. "It's what I always have."
A 2011 study that appeared in the European Journal of Nutrition found that drinking two cups of tart cherry juice (one before bed and one in the morning) elevated melatonin levels and improved sleep duration and quality. On a side note, it also helps with exercise recovery.
It contains an amino acid called tryptophan that's associated with sleep, but that's not the reason warm milk works. (Milk contains protein, and in the presence of protein, tryptophan has a hard time entering the brain. This is why the turkey-tryptophan thing is basically a myth too.) "The effects are really more psychological—if your mother gave you warm milk before bed, you associate it with sleep," Breus says. "So from that perspective, it does work for a lot of people."
They contain magnesium, which has a calming effect on the brain and promotes better sleep. "One serving of almonds is a great choice; there are 22 nuts in one serving, so it's a satiating snack," says Tanya Zuckerbrot, a nutritionist in New York City and the author of The F-Factor Diet.
Calcium works much like magnesium to help lull you to sleep. Zuckerbrot suggests having one to two ounces of low-fat cheese with five to ten whole-grain crackers, or low-fat Greek yogurt.