We’ve all been here: It’s 9:30 p.m., you've got 30 minutes left of The Bachelor before bed, and suddenly you’re craving cookies—should you suck it up until morning or do you indulge in that late-night snack?
Of course, according to the experts, the answer isn’t so simple.
“For optimal sleep it's best not to go to bed too hungry or too full,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D. On one hand, falling asleep when all you can think about is the pit in your stomach is difficult AF. But eating too late can wreak havoc on your bod. “Eating late at night, right before you hit the hay can cause poor digestion issues, bloating, and inadequate sleep, which can lead to decreased energy levels and fatigue," she says. Plus, over time, crappy sleep can lead to weight gain—especially if you're habitually eating empty or excess calories at night, she says.
To find the perfect balance, rate your hunger on a scale of one to 10, where one is stuffed and 10 is starving. If you’re above a six, you’re better off having a bedtime snack before you catch your Z's—as long as it’s under 200 calories, says Moskovitz. If your hunger is at a five or below, "have a glass of water or hot tea and call it a night," she says. "For most, eating after dinner is usually not caused by true hunger but out of boredom or stress."
If you really are experiencing late-night hunger pains, reach for a low-cal, whole-grain snack like whole-wheat toast, high-fiber cereal, or popcorn. "Whole-grain carbs help release serotonin in the brain, which make you feel calm and ready for sleep," Moskovitz says. Whatever you do, stay away from high-protein or high-fat foods—that means no peanut butter on that toast and no buttery popcorn—since they take longer to digest and can disrupt your sleep.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.