July 26, 2014 at 10:59 AM ET
If you're constantly groggy but struggling to get the sleep you need, your biological clock could be out of whack. Thankfully, getting your snooze cycle back in sync might be as simple as picking a new bedtime snack, according to a new study published in the journal Cell Reports.
Researchers from Japan's Yamaguchi University found that eating a carbohydrate-rich snack in the evening may help reset your circadian clock. Why carbs? In the study, researchers found that insulin influences the crucial sleep-regulating gene PER2 in mice; this led them to conclude that ingredients that promote insulin secretion might also help promote healthy circadian patterns in humans. And since carbs in particular increase insulin secretion, they should also help to regularize your body's PER2 cycles so you're drowsy when you should be.
We asked Keri Gans, R.D., author of "The Small Change Diet," which carb-packed nighttime snacks she recommends to help you sleep better (without causing any pounds to creep on). One key thing to keep in mind: You should be consuming snack-sized portions of each of these--not a full meal's worth.
KIND Banana Nut Clusters in Low-Fat Milk
This granola's made with 100 percent whole grains, which are high in the carbs that will help you score a more regular circadian rhythm. Low-fat milk is also full of tryptophan, which converts to serotonin and melatonin in the brain and may have a sedative effect.
These fruits actually contain a decent amount of carbohydrates (about 24 grams per cup), and they're one of the only natural sources of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. As an added bonus, each cup is just 100 calories.
Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bar
In the heat of the summer, a frozen dessert can be just what you're craving before bedtime. Try this one on for size; in addition to a hearty dose of carbs, each bar has eight to 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of calcium, which can help regulate melatonin production to get your sleeping habits in check. You’ll also get a good dose of tryptophan, which is found in high-protein foods (this bar has six grams).
If you tend to nosh on chips before bed, try a serving of 100 percent whole-grain crackers instead. Not only are they high in carbs, but they’re also a good source of vitamin B, which may help prevent insomnia, according to some studies. Top them with one wedge of The Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Cheese, which contains protein and calcium.
Almond Butter on Bread
If you want to keep it simple, you can't go wrong with a slice of whole-grain bread topped with a tablespoon of almond butter (since almonds provide a solid dose of magnesium, which may promote sleep and muscle relaxation). It’s quick, easy, and high enough in carbs to get your insulin pumping.
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