The best thing to snack on before bedtime, to satiate end-of-day cravings, is, according the the experts, water. How satisfying. Water is actually quite filling, and people often mistake hunger for thirst, especially after not drinking enough throughout the day. Eating before bed also increases the risk of heartburn because digestion is harder in the horizontal position. So instead of getting a block of cheese from the fridge before crawling into bed, drink a glass of water.
Now, back to reality, where water is not a realistic bedtime snack option when there's actual food in the next room. As a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told The New York Times, the best food options are those under 200 calories, 300 if you're really hankering. Because snacking makes up a quarter of most people's caloric intake, those calories should at least be nutritious—fresh fruit, high fibre cereals, raw vegetables, and low-fat cottage cheese. Also acceptable are small, controlled portions of cheese and crackers or peanut butter and celery sticks. If you're feeling crazy, popcorn without lots of butter or salt works too.
While we're on the subject, phones don't go well with bedtime either. The blue and white light glowing from phone screens prevents the release of melatonin in the brain, so a sleepy feeling never sets in. The National Sleep Institute recommends keeping eyeballs away from phone screens for at least 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep. Instead, read a book; a 2009 study found that reading for just six minutes reduced stress by 68 percent, making it a more relaxing practice than listening to music or taking a walk. Stress keeps people awake, and it only increases when the time spent asleep decreases, according to the American Psychological Association—which is a crippling cycle.
In lieu of melatonin, alcohol masquerades as a kickstarter for sleepiness. That's a bad idea, too. One overview of multiple studies found that alcohol makes sleep during the first half of the night heavy but disrupts sleep in the second half of the night, reducing important REM sleep. Middle aged men are also two times as wakeful at night after imbibing, according to another study.
So, back to water. Drink more of it during dinner, so that hunger doesn't strike right before bed, snack smartly if necessary, don't drink alcohol before bed, and put yourself to sleep with a good book. Easy enough.