Try these foods to get a good night's sleep

Foods for the Sleep Deprived

by Leanne Ely

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, you're not alone. It's estimated that more than 60 million Americans struggle to sleep at night. So why not add some sleep-inducing foods to your diet? What you eat for dinner really can affect how you sleep. Some foods will help your brain calm down, while others make it race. Some foods will keep you awake, while others will make you rest.

The key material in food we want to look for when it comes to sleepiness is tryptophan. That's a raw ingredient the brain uses to build up its relaxing neurotransmitters, melatonin and serotonin. This tells us that we should eat a high carbohydrate meal in the evening to help our brains relax, but we're often told not to carb-load late at night when we're trying to watch our weight. Remember, though, that carbs does not necessarily equal bread, which tends to be what everyone thinks!

When it comes to preparing your evening meal, or bedtime snack, look for foods that are high in calcium and carbs, but that are relatively low in protein. Eating a protein-rich meal late in the day without an accompanying carb might keep you awake because of the amino acid tyrosine found in most high-protein foods. It likes to perk up our brains, so go easy on the protein before bed. Dairy contains tryptophan and calcium, both highly conducive to sleep (so your mother was right when she would offer you a warm glass of milk as a child!).

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Some good dinnertime foods to help promote sleep are:

  • Turkey
  • Cottage cheese
  • A handful of nuts
  • Honey
  • Oatmeal with a drizzle of honey and a splash of milk
  • Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

Most of us shouldn't be eating before bed, but if you're desperate for sleep, it's worth munching on one of these sleep-inducing snacks before trying to catch some zzzz's. Keep it light, or you'll be tossing and turning even more!

Here are some tips on sleep-inducing bedtime snacks:

  • Warm up some milk and stir some honey into it.
  • Have a bowl of whole grain cereal with milk.
  • Enjoy a banana with peanut butter.
  • Make whole wheat toast with a piece of cheese.
  • Eat a handful of hazelnuts.

It takes about an hour for the tryptophan to reach your brain, so keep that in mind when you're timing this!

Now that you know what foods will help sleep, let's look at what foods to avoid to increase your chances of sleeping well. Most of us know to avoid caffeine, but I bet some of these other foods may just surprise you.

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Food to avoid before bed:

  • Black tea
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty or spicy foods
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Tomatoes

What are your best tips for catching 40 solid winks?

Reviewed October 2017

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Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular,, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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