Should You Eat an Apple Before Bed?


You’ve heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but what happens if you eat an apple before bed?

Apples are the edible fruit of a flowering tree known as Malus domestica. They contain an array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (1).

These iconic fruits make a great snack when hunger strikes, and they’re one of the most consumed fruits globally. That’s mainly due to their seasonal availability, but they’re also tasty and versatile (2, 3).

Specific components found in apples, including melatonin, potassium, and carbs, may affect sleep quality (4, 5).

This article explores the potential benefits and downsides of eating apples before bed.

Below are the nutrition facts for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of raw, unpeeled apple (6):

  • Calories: 52
  • Carbs: 13.8 grams
  • Sugar: 10.4 grams
  • Fiber: 2.4 grams
  • Protein: 0.3 grams
  • Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 8% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Potassium: 3% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 1% of the DV

Carbohydrates

Consuming carbs may impact sleep quality (7).

One study showed that consuming a carb-rich meal with a high glycemic index (GI) before bed may raise tryptophan levels, which increases melatonin and serotonin. These hormones help promote the onset of sleep (8, 9).

Yet, other studies have found mixed results regarding the effects of high GI meals on sleep. Some studies show that a high GI meal can have no effect, while others report sleep disturbances (7, 9, 10).

High GI foods can lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels when eaten. Lower quality, high GI carbs comprising simple sugars, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets, are associated with poorer sleep (11).

However, people who have poorer quality sleep are likely to snack on more of these high GI carbs, so it’s still unclear whether diet affects sleep or sleep affects diet (11).

In one study, 3,129 female workers 34–65 years of age recorded their diet and sleep quality. Those who had higher intakes of low quality carbs, skipped breakfast, ate at irregular times, drank energy drinks, and ate less fish and vegetables reported poorer sleep quality (12).

However, more research into how carbs affect sleep is needed.

Apples, though, are a great source of fiber. That makes them a low GI carb, meaning they cause a minimal rise in blood sugar levels (13).

One study showed that when post-menopausal women switched from consuming high GI foods to low GI foods, the incidence of insomnia decreased (14).

Therefore, apples may help you sleep — or at least, they shouldn’t cause or worsen sleep troubles.

Melatonin

An important driver of a good night’s sleep is melatonin. Your brain produces melatonin naturally as it starts to get dark. It helps relax your body, making you feel sleepy in preparation for a good night’s sleep (15).

Melatonin can also be acquired through dietary sources and supplementation (15).

The first report of melatonin in apples was in 2013 (5).

One study showed that the melatonin content of apples can vary significantly, from approximately 0.86 nanograms (ng) per gram of flesh and peel to 148.11 ng per gram, depending on the variety (2).

Granny Smith apples are low in melatonin at 8.37–17.18 ng per gram, while Jincui apples contain higher levels of melatonin, averaging about 87.28–105.97 ng per gram (2).

To put things into perspective, though, the typical recommended dosage of a melatonin supplement is 1–5 mg. Eating a 3-ounce (100-gram) portion of a Jincui apple would provide about 0.0106 mg of melatonin (16).

Therefore, the amount of melatonin in apples probably isn’t high enough to make you feel sleepy.

Vitamin C

Apples contain 8% of the recommended DV of vitamin C in a 3-ounce (100-gram) portion (6).

Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Antioxidants support your health by fighting free radicals in your body, which can lead to cell damage in high amounts.

Research suggests that inflammation and oxidative stress — which may occur when you have a concentration of free radicals that’s too high — may harm sleep duration (17, 18).

In a study that collected sleep data from healthy adults ages 20 years and older, people with ideal levels of vitamin C showed lower levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. They were also more likely to report sufficient sleep of 7–8 hours (17, 19).

Therefore, eating apples regularly may indirectly promote sleep.

Potassium

Apples contain small amounts of the mineral potassium. Research suggests that irregular levels of potassium may contribute to daytime sleepiness (20).

Most research analyzing potassium’s effects on sleep is dated, and up-to-date research is needed.

A dated study from 1991 examined the effects of potassium supplementation on sleep quality in healthy young males ages 18–33 who were on a low potassium diet (21).

Results showed that a daily potassium intake of 96 milliequivalents for a week improved sleep efficiency. However, if you’re already consuming a diet high in potassium, supplementation may not offer any additional benefits for sleep quality (21).

Overall, the effects of potassium supplementation on sleep are unclear. Newer research is needed to confirm these effects.

Regardless, the quantity of potassium in apples is not significant. A 3-ounce (100-gram) portion contains 3% of the recommended DV, while bananas contain 10% of the recommended DV (22).

Therefore, the levels of potassium in apples may not be enough to help with sleep.

Summary

Apples contain a combination of nutrients that may contribute to a good night’s sleep. However, the amount of nutrients in apples is not significant, so it’s unlikely that apples can promote sleep. That said, they shouldn’t inhibit sleep either.

Eating before bed may go against your natural circadian rhythm.

Studies suggest that eating late at night may increase your susceptibility to obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (23).

One study compared the effects of eating the same 200-calorie snack in the daytime (10 a.m.) versus at nighttime (11 p.m.) on women with moderate weights. Results showed that in the nighttime group, the ability to burn fat slightly decreased and total cholesterol slightly increased (24).

However, research findings are conflicting, as some studies have shown no difference when consuming small meals at night (23).

Eating higher quality, lower GI foods such as apples before bedtime may be beneficial for sleep, but more research is needed.

Summary

Some research demonstrates that eating a snack at night may reduce the body’s ability to burn fat and increase cholesterol levels. However, the evidence is insufficient, and it’s unclear whether eating an apple would have the same effect.

Newer evidence suggests apples contain melatonin, a hormone that provides the calm and tranquillity needed to fall asleep. However, the quantity found in apples is very low and unlikely to induce sleep.

However, being a quality source of carbs and a low GI food, apples may help reduce the time it takes to fall into a deep sleep when eaten before bed.

There are claims that eating late at night may increase one’s susceptibility to obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, but some research findings contradict this. It’s unclear whether eating apples before bed would contribute to the development of these conditions.

Overall, no solid research supports or rejects the idea of eating an apple before bed to promote good sleep. It doesn’t appear that apples promote or inhibit your sleep. So, if you feel like having an apple before bed, go for it.



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