James Rouse, MD, a naturopathic physician and yoga teacher, came up with the idea “after watching my daughters make nightly pilgrimages to the kitchen countless times for a bite of something sweet and satisfying,” he explains.
“I thought, why not make something that fulfills that craving, but also serves a purpose late at night that encourages sustained quality sleep?” (And not leftovers or a bowl of sugar-laced cereal. Whoops.)
“Millions of people are affected by sleep issues, and night smoothies are a new way to address it.”
It’s an idea that nutritionist Frances Largeman-Roth says could potentially take off—along with other foods addressing the fact that no one can seem to get enough zzzs. “Millions of people are affected by sleep issues, and night smoothies are a new way to address it,” she says. “It isn’t a magic fix, but it can help.”
So what exactly should you sip in your night smoothie—especially if you have a habit of getting home late and eating dinner after 9 p.m.?
Here’s how to craft the perfect bedtime blend and add a smoothie into your nightly lights-out routine.
1. Keep it to 8 ounces
The time between when you turn off the lights and your alarm clock goes off in the morning is your body’s time to rest—you don’t want to be busy digesting food. To ensure your smoothie works for you and not against you, Largeman-Roth recommends keeping the serving to 8 ounces—about half of what your a.m. smoothie would be. “It’s not meant to be a meal replacement,” she says.
2. Sip sleep-inducing ingredients
Ingredients with magnesium and tryptophan trigger the body to relax. If you can digest them, “yogurt and milk both make good night smoothie bases because they have magnesium,” she says. Other favorites: bananas, which have tryptophan, and serotonin-packed kiwi, which she says interacts with melatonin to promote a good night’s sleep.
Another key ingredient: tart cherries, which she says are high in melatonin, AKA the most popular natural sleep aid. Tart cherries also happen to be a main ingredient in the Skoop smoothies, which Dr. Rouse says work with added protein (his formula uses vegan pea protein) and your milk of choice (yes, nut milk works), to increase drowsiness.
Stay away from caffeine or ingredients with loads of sugar, natural or otherwise.
3. Make it part of an unplugging ritual
Both Largeman-Roth and Dr. Rouse say having a night smoothie to inspire good sleep is pretty pointless if you’re sipping it while scrolling Instagram or finishing up some work emails.
“The blue light from electronics is counteractive to falling asleep, and stress depletes melatonin in the body. So maybe it’s having your night smoothie while listening to [meditation app] Headspace, or sipping it while journaling. You have to do things to reduce stress,” Largeman-Roth emphasizes.
Dr. Rouse agrees. “Enact a ‘digital sunset,’ putting away your phone, tablet, and resist unwinding in front of the TV,” he says. “By creating a nightly ritual, you’re giving yourself permission to relax and wind down.” And that’s going to lead to some sweet dreams.
Want to try meditating before bed? Here are nine brilliant meditation hacks. Check out what happened when a Well+Good editor napped at work every day for a week. And could this be why you’re tired all the time?
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