three cones with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream

Why You Should Skip the Ice Cream Before Bed

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/ January 6, 2021
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If you're like me, you agree that there's nothing quite as comforting as a big bowl of ice cream. Also, if you're like me, you don't even care what flavor you have—or whether you eat it from straight from the pint—as long as you can sneak a few bites before bedtime. 

The thing is, ice cream isn't exactly the best treat to enjoy before hitting the sack. Below, we explain how ice cream impacts sleep. Plus, we share some sweet substitutes that'll satisfy your nighttime ice cream craving without ruining your ability to catch Z's. 

Why ice cream before bed is bad

There's one big reason why ice cream isn't a great pre-bedtime snack choice. “Eating a bowl of ice cream before bed can negatively impact sleep because of its high sugar content," says Jackie Topol, RD, culinary nutritionist. 

As Topol explains, when you eat something with lots of sugar in it too close to bedtime, your blood sugar will spike and then crash, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night.

You also have to watch out for dairy, which is high in fat. Too much dairy can cause an upset stomach, leading to poor sleep if you eat it too close to bedtime. Makes sense, right?

That can kick off a vicious cycle: According to Topol, people who get poor sleep tend to make less healthy decisions about food the next day, and that can lead to even more poor sleep. 

To combat this, Topol recommends avoiding snacks altogether for at least one to two hours before bedtime.

banana ice cream

Bananas are high in fiber and pectin, both of which contribute to a good night's sleep.

Ice cream alternatives that won't ruin sleep

Look, we get it—not being able to eat your favorite snack before bed is a downer. That said, you can still enjoy something sweet at night without completely wrecking your sleep. 

Here are two yummy ice cream alternatives worth giving a try the next time you have a nighttime craving for a cold, creamy treat. 

Frozen banana “nice cream"

If you love the texture of ice cream, then consider replacing your nighttime ice cream ritual with a frozen banana blended to perfection. Also commonly referred to as "nice cream," this dessert is extremely easy to make. All you have to do is peel, slice, and freeze a ripe banana. When you're ready to snack, throw the frozen banana chunks into a blender or food processor until they're smooth and creamy. 

As a bonus, this is a snack that can actually help you sleep better. As we've reported previously, bananas are a good source of fiber and pectin, both of which can help you feel more full, which, in turn, can make it easier to get a good night's sleep. Bananas are also chock full of sleep-promoting nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan. 

Tart cherry smoothie

Smoothies are a great way to sneakily squeeze in nutrients that could be missing from your diet. They could also help you snooze, depending on the ingredients you decide to use. 

One of the best smoothie ingredients to include? Tart cherries, which promote sleep. Tart cherries contain high quantities of melatonin, the hormone that regulates when you feel sleepy, and tryptophan, an amino acid that causes fatigue. (Check out our round-up of the best smoothies to start and end your day with for a delicious tart cherry smoothie recipe.)

The bottom line on ice cream before bed

Finally, if you just can't give up that nightly of bowl ice cream (and really, we can't blame you!), work on small changes in the timing around when you eat it. As Topol suggests, stop eating at least a couple of hours before bed to prevent all that sugar and dairy from ruining your sleep. 

There's also Nightfood, an ice cream low in sugar and fat and made with ingredients that promote sleep, including magnesium, calcium, and zinc. It's even endorsed by sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD.

Sweet (but not too sweet!) dreams!

What other foods affect sleep? Here are the worst foods to eat before bed.

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