Foods To Help You Sleep

From Dr. Holly Phillips, M.D.

What you eat can affect the quality of your sleep on any given night—for better or worse. While certain foods and beverages are sleep-promoters, others are sleep-inhibitors when they’re consumed shortly before bedtime. To set yourself up for a good night’s slumber, be sure to stick with the sleep-enhancers in the evening and steer clear of the sleep-saboteurs. Since it’s not always obvious which foods have which properties, here is a cheat-sheet to help you make the optimal choices for an evening meal or bedtime snack:

Foods That Can Promote Good Zzzz’s  

Cherries: They contain melatonin, a hormone that helps control your body’s internal clock and put you in the mood to snooze. That’s why having a small bowl of cherries or a glass of tart cherry juice in the evening may promote a good night’s sleep.

Milk: The creamy white beverage contains the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to the calming brain chemical serotonin, which can make you sleepy. Warm or cold, a mug of milk can help you nod off.

Bananas: Rich in the minerals magnesium and potassium, bananas have a relaxing effect on the body and mind that’s conducive to sleep.

Whole-grain cereal: With or without milk, the complex carbs in whole-grain cereal (think: a cup of oat squares or shredded wheat) can put you in the mood to snooze.

Sweet potato: Besides being an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, sweet potatoes contain calming potassium and they help stimulate serotonin production.

Walnuts: A great source of tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, a small handful walnuts are a dream bedtime snack.

Cheese and whole-grain crackers: The combo can boost serotonin and melatonin levels, setting the stage for a good night’s sleep.

Chamomile tea: An herb that’s been used to treat insomnia for thousands of years, chamomile tea acts as a mild sedative, calming your body and mind.

Honey: A good source of sleep-inducing tryptophan, having a tablespoon of honey in the evening can promote relaxation and help you sleep better.

Oatmeal: Rich in complex carbohydrates, oatmeal is a great source of calming minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, as well as stress-reducing vitamin B-6 and the natural sleep aid melatonin. Think of it as a healthy sedative in a bowl.

Foods That Can Sabotage Sleep

Coffee: Blame the caffeine, pure and simple. It can rev up your body and mind and keep you up when you should be dreaming.

Steak: Having a hunk of red meat (whether it’s a steak or another cut) too close to bedtime forces your body to work overtime to digest all that protein and fat. It’s enough to leave you counting sheep.

Chocolate: The dark stuff, in particular, contains enough caffeine to trigger a night of tossing and turning for people who are sensitive to it.

French fries: Eating fried foods or other high-fat fare in the evening can tax your gastrointestinal system, leaving you with a whopping case of heartburn that can interfere with your slumber.

Soda: Even if it doesn’t contain caffeine, the carbonation in soda can lead to heartburn that can keep you up at night.

Alcohol: A nightcap is supposed to help you unwind but while it can make you sleepy initially, alcohol can interfere with the normal stages of sleep, leaving you tired or less-than-refreshed in the morning.

Sriracha sauce: Getting horizontal after eating any spicy foods can result in heartburn and a restless night’s sleep.

Tomatoes: They contain the amino acid tyramine, which causes the brain to release norepinephrine, a stress hormone that can rev up your body and mind. Not what you want before bed!

Broccoli: Loaded with health-promoting nutrients and fiber, broccoli takes a while to digest, which is fine during the day. At night, however, it can set you up for a restless night’s sleep if you have it too close to bedtime.

Peppermint: Whether it’s in the form of gum or candy, peppermint can stimulate the brain, making you feel more alert and awake—the opposite of what you want before bed!

Love Dr. Holly’s tips? Read how to under before bed or how to avoid a hangover