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Carbs Before Bed – Do Carbs Make You Sleepy?

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Written by Anđela Rajković

Sleep Consultant

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21 December 2023 4 min read

In the ongoing quest for a restful night's sleep, the relationship between carbs and bedtime has become a topic of intrigue. Delving into the age-old question—do carbs make you sleepy?—unravels a fascinating exploration of the connection between our evening meals and the quest for a peaceful night's slumber.

Are those late-night carb cravings a hidden ally in the pursuit of sweet dreams, or might they be the cause of tossing and turning?

Join us as we delve into the mysteries, realities, and scientific insights surrounding the perennial query: does consuming carbs before bedtime truly influence the tranquillity of our slumber? Prepare to unravel the captivating interplay between nutrition and sleep in our quest to decipher the secrets behind the ultimate bedtime snack conundrum.

Should you be having carbs before bed?

Yes!

As long as separate the ‘good' carbs from the ‘bad' ones – that is, as long as you separate simple carbs from the complex ones!

Let us explain.

Simple Vs. complex carbs

An image of bread.

Alright, so we've got these carb buddies, right?

Simple carbs are like the cool kids who party hard and break down super fast. You find them in candies, sodas, and all those processed goodies. They give you a quick energy high, but then, bam! You crash and feel all tired and hungry.

Now, the complex carb squad is a bit more chill. They're the whole grain, veggie, and legume crew. These guys take their sweet time breaking down, giving you a slow and steady energy release. No crazy blood sugar rollercoaster here. Plus, they come with a sidekick called fiber that's awesome for digestion and keeping you full.

Reasons to eat carbs before bed

The body needs energy to function, and carbohydrates are great for producing long-term and short-term energy. They also positively affect the quality of sleep, but the most important thing is to achieve a balance. In that case, it is necessary to increase the intake of leafy and other vegetables, especially if you have been eating foods such as bread, pasta and rice.

Better sleep

Turns out, that bedtime snack craving might be your ticket to dreamland bliss.

When you munch on carbs before hitting the hay, you're unleashing the power of tryptophan, the sleepy superhero in your food. This guy boosts serotonin and melatonin, the dynamic duo that whispers sweet dreams in your ear.

So, next time you're debating a snack attack, grab a reasonable dose of carbs – a slice of pizza, a handful of crackers – and let the sleep vibes roll in.

But, remember what we said above – pay attention to simple and complex carbs! If you want to munch on that pizza, make it yourself by using nutritious ingredients. Getting yourself a store-bought one, one that is full of simple carbs, will just keep your eyes open all night.

Better recovery (glycogen replenishment)

Carbs – they're like the secret sauce for our brain and muscle recovery mission.

Picture this: our brain is like a hungry monster, and carbs are its favourite snack. They also restock this thing called glycogen, a fuel reserve hanging out in our liver. The thing is, these glycogen reserves are like the snacks at a party – they run out pretty quickly. So, to keep the party going, we gotta top up those glycogen levels daily. Whole grains, like chomping down on some whole wheat toast, are the VIP pass to this glycogen recharge.

Preventing late-night snacks

Alright, let's chat about the late-night snack sitch – it's not just a craving, it's a science thing too. So, your sugar levels take a nosedive before bedtime, making your body go, “Yo, feed me!” Now, the catch is, if you've been loading up on simple carbs, it's like pouring fuel on the “I-need-a-snack” fire.

Now, here's the lowdown – not all snacking is bad news. If you're reaching for the good stuff, like complex carbs, you're in for a treat. They're like the chill pill for your hunger, keeping you satisfied for the long haul. And guess what? Quality ingredients mean no tummy troubles and no sneaky extra calories creeping in. It's like a win-win – you stay full, and the late-night snack monster takes a nap.

Reasons to avoid carbs before bed

An image of a woman holding her stomach

Carbs can be your body's buddy, but there are times when you might wanna give them a rain check.

So, check it out – the complex ones, like with extra fiber, take their sweet time to break down, which means they don't mess with your blood sugar in a hurry.

On the flip side, the simple ones, like the sugary goodness in chocolates and candies, can stir up some trouble.

Stick with the starchy crew, and you'll probably dodge those bothersome vibes.

But if you're still not convinced, here are a few extra reasons to potentially stay away from carbs for the time being.

Bloating and other stomach problems

Life habits matter, and if you're picking the wrong carb squad, your stomach might rebel. Think cramps, acid reflux, the whole drama – not cool. If you're feeling the vibe of intolerance, your gut might be sending smoke signals in the form of bloating, gas, or bathroom woes. Bread, pastries, pasta, and lactose-loaded milk might be the troublemakers.

But hold up, pizza gets a pass! Just roll with fermented dough and follow some nutrition wisdom, and you'll be catching those Zs like a pro.

A sudden jump in blood sugar (monitor the glycemic index)

Alright, so here's the deal with blood sugar rollercoasters. Slamming certain sweets is like putting your sugar levels on a rocket ship – up, up, and away. On the flip side, starchy stuff takes it slow, giving your bloodstream a gradual glucose intro.

Now, nighttime is like the chill mode for your metabolism. Energy burn is on a break, so scarfing down a carb-loaded dinner might not be the sleep squad's best move. Oh, and don't forget about the glycemic index (GI) – it's like the speedometer for how fast your blood sugar spikes after munching on carbs.

Conclusion

Alright, peeps, let's break down the carb game. Our bodies do this magic trick, turning carbs into sugar or glucose. When the carb supply's running low, it's like, “Hey, let's burn some fat for energy!” Cool, right? But here's the kicker – our brains are sugar fiends. They need that glucose groove to function regularly. Skip the carbs, and you might be in for a ride of fatigue, grumpiness, and a VIP ticket to the anxiety-depression-insomnia club.

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About the author

Anđela Rajković
As a CPD certified Sleep Consultant and well-practiced sleep enthusiast, I find a lot of joy in bringing my expertise to our readers – preferably those who love to sleep. With a background in the English language and literature and a love of research, I'm always seeking new ways to share the latest sleep science and bed-related findings. And, when I'm not connecting with my readers, you can find me exploring the great outdoors, or, well, curling up in bed.
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