Here's what sleep experts say about the nighttime treat
You’re in your favorite sweats, curled up under a cozy blanket, ready to binge your latest Netflix obsession when you hear the first growl of your stomach. Try as you might to fight your late-night snack cravings, if you’re an ice cream person, you’re an ice cream person, right?
You grab a spoon and reach for the pint in the back of the freezer. Your taste buds rejoice, but now you’ve got a belly full of dairy and sugar—now there’s no way you’ll fall asleep.
Enter Nightfood, a new ice cream that claims to be the solution. Nightfood says it’s a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream and can help you get a better night’s rest. But is it possible for ice cream to actually be good for you—especially right before bed? Health asked sleep experts what they think.
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Believe it or not, there’s no melatonin in Nightfood. Instead, Nightfood’s website says amino acids, enzymes, protein, fiber, and more have all been considered when making the before-bed ice cream more “sleep-friendly.” “It’s simply a better-for-you ice cream formulated for nighttime, when most ice cream is consumed,” the Nightfood site says.
Nightfood also cut back on sugar and fat, meaning fewer calories than some traditional pints. It’s pretty neck-and-neck with other low-calorie competitors. For example, both a pint of Halo Top Vanilla Bean and a pint of Nightfood Full Moon Vanilla contain 280 calories. A serving of the Halo Top has 2 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of sugar alcohol, while a serving of the Nightfood comes in at 1.5 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and no sugar alcohol.
So will it help you sleep?
W. Chris Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution, tells Health he thinks the idea of using ice cream as a sleep aid is rather “disturbing.” “As a society we need to get away from this idea that this pill, this spray, this app, this technology, this food is benefiting our sleep,” Dr. Winter says. After-dinner mint chocolate chip isn’t the answer to most people’s sleep problems, he adds.
Eating a lot before bed probably isn’t your best bet, Dr. Winter says, but if you choose to snack at night, there are healthier options than ice cream. One late-night superstar? Bananas, which are rich in sleep-boosting, muscle-relaxing magnesium, he says.
Dr. Winter says he’s all for a healthier alternative to ice cream, but he’s not fond of considering it a sleep aid. “I can think of other ways to help you sleep that don’t involve sugar,” he says.
Still, says Raj Dasgupta, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, because it’s common to crave sweets at night, Nightfood isn’t the worst thing a person could be snacking on. “I would definitely rather [people] eat this than Ding Dongs and Sno Balls,” Dr. Dasgupta tells Health. (Keep in mind, he adds, that eating too much—of any food—before bed can aggravate acid reflux.)
Other sleep experts have publicly supported Nightfood — and even helped with its development. On Nightfood’s website, Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University Arizona, calls the ice cream “a better choice for nighttime cravings.”
Ideally, Dr. Dasgupta says, you should be practicing healthy habits throughout the day that benefit your rest—like de-stressing and powering down electronics before bed—instead of relying on ice cream to put you to sleep. But while nighttime ice cream may not be the healthiest ritual, if you’re going to indulge, why not pick a better-for-you bite? And if you find it helps you sleep, well, that’s cool too.