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Can’t Sleep? A Dietitian Says Sipping a Protein Shake Before Bed Helps Block Insomnia

Find out what to look for in a shake, plus see the simple timing trick that boosts the benefits

Tossing and turning, counting sheep, staring at the ceiling… sleep trouble is anything but fun. Still, it’s incredibly common. One in four women struggles with insomnia, according to the Office on Women’s Health. Can something as sipping a protein shake before bed help? It turns out this easy trick may just be your ticket to dreamland.

The benefits of a protein shake before bed

You already know that getting enough sleep allows you to wake up energized and alert. But catching ample Zzzs also helps you maintain a healthy weight and safeguards your sunny mood. Plus it can even help prevent high blood pressure and diabetes. (Learn more about how a lack of sleep can raise your diabetes risk.)

So how exactly can a protein shake before bed help you doze off and snooze soundly?

“Protein before bed helps regulate hormone levels, blood sugar and satiety,” Kylie Bensley, a registered dietitian and founder of the nutrition company Sulinu. “Sometimes, we awake in the middle of the night due to low or high blood sugar. If we can stabilize the blood sugar through adequate protein before sleep, this helps the body sleep through the night.”

And while you may not be able to control all things keeping you up at night, a protein shake before bed is easy to add to your life. It’s effective, too. Animal research in New Scientist suggests that those on a higher protein diet slept more soundly than those on a lower protein diet. While more research is needed in humans, it’s certainly worth trying.

Bensley recommends a low-sugar protein shake before bed to help you get a good night’s rest. This can be especially helpful if you often wake up hungry overnight. One low-sugar, high-protein option to try: Premier Protein Cookie Dough Protein Shake.

How to boost the benefits of a protein shake before bed

To get the most out of sipping a protein shake before bed, follow Bensley’s five smart tips:

1. Swap your normal snack

A close-up of a woman's hand adding protein powder to her shake before bed

Many of us tend to reach for carbohydrate-rich foods to snack on while watching TV before bed. (Think ice cream, cookies and pretzels.) If you swap these out for a protein shake, you’ll be setting yourself up for sounder slumber.

“Protein is a better bedtime snack than a simple carbohydrate like pretzels,” Bensley says. “Pretzels alone will lead to an immediate blood sugar spike, and then your blood sugar could quickly drop and cause low blood sugar overnight.” Protein, on the other hand, is digested more slowly. This keep your blood sugar stable while you snooze.

2. Choose the right type of protein before bed

Some protein powders used to make protein shakes can be tough to digest. Soy protein and seed-based protein powders like pumpkin and sunflower can cause stomach upset. On the other hand, “whey is typically easily digested, so it is good prior to sleep,” says Bensley.

She specifically recommends whey protein isolate for bedtime. “It’s higher in protein and lower in fat and carbs than regular whey,” she explains. “It also contains less lactose, so it may be more appropriate and tolerable for people with lactose intolerance and sensitivities.”

One powdered whey protein mix to try: Thorne Chocolate-Flavored Whey Protein Isolate.

3. Aim for at least 20 g protein

To get the most benefits from a protein shake bed, Bensley suggests looking for one that contains at least 20 grams of protein per serving. At the same time, shoot for something with 200 calories or less. “That helps prevent weight gain,” adds Bensley.

4. Scale back on sugar

There are a lot of protein shakes on the market, and reading the ingredient list is a smart bet. “I recommend a low-sugar protein shake,” Bensley says. “Make sure your protein shake is free of ingredients that could prevent a sound sleep, such as guarana, high-dose B vitamins or caffeine.”

She’s also a fan of third-party testing, which involves having an external laboratory verify the quality, purity and contents of a product. “You’ll see a label on the product showing that it has been third-party tested,” she adds.

5. Sip your protein shake at this time

Though it’s good to drink your protein shake in the evening, you don’t want to drink it immediately before bed. “To prevent [acid] reflux, have it about an hour before bedtime,” suggests Bensley. This also helps prevent you from downing too many fluids late at night and waking up overnight to use the restroom.

Discover more ways protein can improve your health:

Eating This Much Protein in the Morning Can Boost Weight Loss, According to Experts

Women Over 50 Are Going Crazy for Protein Coffee — And Weight Loss Is Only One Reason

Over 50 and Can’t Lose Weight? What to Know About Sarcopenia + How to Fix It With Protein

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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