Eating a Snack Right Before Bed Is the Latest TikTok Sleep Hack, But Experts Aren't Convinced

A chiropractic neurologist suggests eating a snack before bed can help you sleep through the night, but does it actually work?

TikTok True or False: Eat Before Sleep Hack
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Sleep is a doozy: It can impact every aspect of your well-being daily, yet it's sometimes hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. With so many people struggling to sleep well, it's not exactly surprising that there are a variety of sleep hacks circulating around the internet — especially on TikTok.

One piece of advice that has been getting attention lately comes courtesy of chiropractic neurologist Scott Beyer, D.C., D.A.C.N.B., co-founder of Integrative Brain and Body. If you fall asleep easily but wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty going back to sleep, try eating a small amount of food right before bed, he suggests in a TikTok video. Doing so may balance the adrenal hormones cortisol and adrenaline, helping you sleep through the night, he explains. To date, Beyer's video has amassed 2.4 million views and thousands of comments from night owls and people eager to try this trick, including some who claim it worked for them.

While Beyer stands by this method as a short-term hack for helping you sleep better, particularly during times of stress, both he and other experts warn that there are a number of caveats to be aware of if you're considering trying it for yourself — and it might not be right for you at all. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Beyer's sleep hack?

Eating a little bit of food before bed and first thing in the morning may help people, specifically those experiencing stress, sleep through the night, suggests Beyer in his popular TikTok video. "The biggest thing is you want to make sure [what you eat before bed is] not too carby and the main macronutrients in it are protein and fat," he tells Shape. For example, you could eat half of an apple dipped in almond butter, he suggests.

This is based on his theory that people who wake up in the middle of the night may do so because of "an imbalance between two adrenal hormones," he says in his TikTok video, referring to cortisol and adrenaline. "Cortisol's main job is to actually regulate blood sugar, but it's also responsive in individuals that are under stress," he explains.

Ideally, the body releases cortisol increasingly throughout the night until it peaks in the morning, helping you feel more alert, explains Beyer in the clip. But excess stress over time can cause a person's cortisol levels to flatten during the night, causing adrenaline ("a central nervous system stimulant," explains Beyer) to release to regulate blood sugar instead, which may make someone too stimulated to sleep, he continues.

Both cortisol and adrenaline affect blood sugar levels during periods of stress by making enough sugar (i.e. energy) available to fight the perceived stressor, according to the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. By eating a snack before bed and having food first thing in the morning, "you can take a load off of the demand for blood sugar regulation," says Beyer in his TikTok. "And over time, people can actually start sleeping soundly throughout the night."

Does eating right before bed to sleep through the night work?

Although Beyer claims this method has worked for him and some of his clients in the short term, other experts aren't convinced it's a solid remedy for poor sleep. "Not many people wake up in the middle of the night due to flat cortisol levels and adrenaline production [as] mentioned in the video," says Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., medical content expert at SleepingOcean. "In addition, nighttime awakenings can be caused by multiple other reasons, and eating before sleep can't help a person deal with them." Some reasons for waking in the middle of the night include insomnia, other hormonal changes, medication, and lifestyle habits, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Simply put, Dr. Hsu doesn't believe that Beyer's theory holds up. "Beyer claims eating right before bed makes you produce more cortisol during sleep, which is false," he says. "Eating triggers [the] parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers cortisol levels during sleep and triggers the release of adrenaline during sleep, making staying asleep more difficult."

Dr. Hsu isn't the only expert to question the validity of Beyer's advice. "This issue (stress, cortisol, and insomnia) is not black and white, and other factors must be considered," says Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., M.S., R.N., sleep science advisor at Aeroflow Sleep. "For example, gender, age, and menstrual phase," she continues. Still, some other experts believe it would be worth studying this hack in a controlled setting to confirm whether or not it has merit, reports Today.

While Dr. Hsu and Weiss are skeptical of Breyer's sleep advice, they agree certain foods may promote better sleep. These include bananas, kiwi, almonds, and turkey, all of which contain tryptophan, a precursor of melatonin. "They can help our natural production of melatonin," explains Weiss. "In that sense, they are helpful for healthy sleep and well-being." That said, it's best to eat these foods earlier in the evening rather than right before bed for promoting sleep, she warns.

Is eating right before bed for better sleep safe?

As you might have guessed, eating a small amount of food before bed isn't dangerous; however, it could have unpleasant side effects, according to experts. "Eating too close to one's bedtime might cause further sleep issues and decrease the quality of one's slumber," says Dr. Hsu. "The body will be too busy trying to digest the food, so it won't be able to relax fully and enjoy deep sleep. Additionally, going to bed right after eating may lead to acid reflux and heartburn," he continues.

"Consuming a small portion of complex carbohydrates and protein is less likely to drain your circadian rhythm [than eating a whole meal close to bedtime]," says Weiss. BTW, your circadian rhythm is the body's natural daily schedule, or "biological clock." Essentially, it tells you when it's time to sleep, wake up, and eat. "But remember — our bodies are not designed to eat at night," adds Weiss. "So, you must be careful when taking this advice to heart. A quick fix may have long-lasting health consequences," she says. For example, making a habit of eating too close to bedtime — "especially carbohydrates and sugar-based food with a fast glucose surge" — can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, explains Weiss.

While eating first thing in the morning is perfectly fine, the experts don't recommend eating right before bed in the majority of cases. Eating a snack before bed to promote sleeping through the night is only right for a specific group of people dealing with stress, admits Beyer. Instead, "we should stop eating approximately three hours before bedtime," says Weiss. "What we eat and when we eat matters for sleep, circadian rhythms, and metabolism," she adds.

Eating right before bed helps you sleep through the night: True or false?

TikTok True or False: Eat Before Sleep Hack
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While there's no major harm in trying this sleep hack, experts suggest getting to the bottom of underlying causes of poor sleep instead of looking for a temporary fix. You might try meditation, journaling, gratitude practices, breathing exercises, self-massage, yoga, and stretching, recommends Dr. Hsu. "Each of these tools can be used before bed," he says. "This way, a person may wind down, reduce the levels of stress hormones, and sleep better."

If you try all of the above and nothing seems to work, it may be time to consult a health care provider who can help you get to the bottom of your sleep issues and best manage them.

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