This New Ice Cream Brand Claims to Help You Sleep—but Does It Really Work?
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?
"Nightfood contains less sugar, which is less likely to create a metabolic disturbance close to bedtime," Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University Arizona College of Medicine, tells Health in an email. "Also, it is less calorie-dense and contains fewer additives that may cause physiologic disturbances, such as sugar alcohols,” says Grandner, who is also on the Nightfood sleep and nutrition expert team.
W. Chris Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution, tells Health he thinks positioning ice cream as good for sleep 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.
"Of course, the healthiest thing to snack on at night is nothing," Grandner says. "However, this is not what many (most?) people are doing. If people are going to eat ice cream anyway, a lower-calorie option might, over time, result in fewer nighttime calories consumed.”
Because it’s so common to crave sweets at night, Nightfood isn’t the worst thing a person could be snacking on, says Raj Dasgupta, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. “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.)
"Whether it's a good idea or not, lots of people eat ice cream at night," Dr. Grandner says. "The idea behind this product was to simply give those people an option for something healthier that is less likely to disturb sleep."
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.
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