Sleep Tight!

Here are some interesting “sleep-for-thought” tips! Forget what your mom told you: A glass of warm milk before bed might actually keep you up, rather than lull you to sleep. See, the protein in the milk will boost alertness–and unless it’s skim, the fat will slow your digestion, making your rest more fitful. Not exactly the best shut-eye remedy. (Sorry, mom.)

Nothing makes it harder to fall asleep than knowing how important it is to fall asleep. So when the pressure’s on, try chowing down on one of these snacks before bedtime to ensure some serious shut-eye; they’re all hand-picked and approved by the Eat This, Not That! nutrition team. These 8 sleep-better foods and drinks have been shown to induce feel-good relaxation chemicals, calming your nerves and slowing your racing brain.

Pop a bag half an hour before bedtime: The carbs will induce your body to create serotonin, a neurochemical that makes you feel relaxed. Skipping the butter-fat will slow the process of boosting those feel-good chemicals, and, as mentioned above, will also slow digestion in general.

Sleep is inspired by the hormone melatonin, but stress or excitement can disrupt melatonin’s release. Bring your brain back down to earth by whipping up a bowl of instant oatmeal and topping it with a sliced banana, which is rich in melatonin.

Related: Something else that helps you sleep: A good workout, early in the day.

Scientists in Slovakia gave people either 3 grams each of two amino acids (lysine and arginine) or a placebo and asked them to deliver a speech. Blood measurements of stress hormones revealed that the amino acid-fortified speakers were half as anxious during and after the speech as those who took the placebo. Yogurt is one of the best food sources of lysine; nuts pack tons of arginine. Because both contain alertness-inducing protein, you’re best off eating this combo a few hours before bed (or even at midday, before a big, stressful presentation at work). It’ll reduce the residual stress you feel later in the evening, meaning you won’t replay your day over and over again in your head as you try to fall asleep.

Sesame seeds are one of the best natural sources of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid responsible for all of those post-Thanksgiving turkey comas. Hold off on the turkey sammies, though-the protein in the turkey might offset the tryptophan’s benefit.

Pretzels are a low-calorie, low-fat source of carbohydrates, which will make you feel sleepy, but won’t pack on the pounds or give you belly-aching indigestion.

It’s called a “nightcap” for a reason–a glass of wine really does take the edge off. University of Toronto researchers discovered that one alcoholic drink caused people’s blood vessels to relax–but two began to reverse the effects, so limit your intake. Relaxed blood vessels means lower blood pressure, slower heart rate, and greater ability to relax in general.

Cherry juice has serotonin-inducing carbohydrates, which will help relax you. Down the cherry juice an hour before bedtime, in case you feel a small jolt of energy from the sugar. There’s not enough to keep you up all night or destabilize your blood sugar levels.

Researchers at the University of Alabama fed rats 200 milligrams of vitamin C twice a day and found that it nearly stopped the secretion of cortisol, a hormone released in your body when you’re stressed. Calorie for calorie, red bell peppers give you more vitamin C than any other fruit or vegetable.

And for more great advice like this, head over to Eat This Not That!

What tips do you have for falling to sleep?


42 Responses

  1. I’m an awesome sleeper, so I rarely have trouble falling asleep. But for the very long year I lived in the apartment below a giant in steel-soled boots I found that not seeing the clock helped. So instead of laying awake counting down the hours I was just laying awake thinking of ways to shut him up. Seriously though, it helps. I naturally can’t see my clock (ah, nearsightedness) but I also can’t obsess about the hours ticking by.

  2. DEFINITELY a nightcap, a cup of herbal tea, or a book πŸ™‚ those are my favorites, but i’m a lucky girl b/c i never have issues falling asleep!

  3. Hmmm…I knew there was a reason I OD on the carbs and wine before bed…;)…never knew that about the milk -interesting!!! Hah – I think all my sleep troubles come from the fact that I eat too much, of course, and can’t shut off….

  4. Maybe I need to try some of these! I am a terrible sleeper, so I have absolutely nothing to add to the list LOL.

  5. whoa cooool! i all of these every night! yay!!!! i like taking hot baths b4 bed too πŸ™‚

  6. mmm I love all those things! sweet dreams to me!

  7. Cool post. I can’t say I knew half of this!

  8. I’m lucky enough to not have trouble sleeping…I’m out the second my head hits the pillow!! But I’ll take any excuse to eat before bedtime, so I might have to try some of these methods anyway πŸ™‚

  9. Oh goody- another excuse for oatmeal! And wine πŸ™‚

  10. Uh oh, I eat a lot of oatmeal and bananas in the morning.. hopefully it’s not making me sleepy!! I’ve learned I sleep better if I do earlier workouts (so the body has time to settle down) and if I write down to-do lists for the next day so I’m not thinking about it when I should be sleeping.

  11. I used to have problems falling asleep until I had kids and I dealt with some serious lack of sleep.

    However, my best tip when I do have problems is to get out, laying in bed trying to fall asleep is the worst.

  12. I read or do a crossword/word search puzzle until I start having to rest my eyes. πŸ˜‰

  13. I eat a huge night time “snack”…and (like last night) can be found at 12:30 am in bed with more chocolate….
    anyway, nice list…i always heard that carbs are the best pre-bed…cereals, popcorns, pretzels, snack chips, etc etc…fruits, yogurt, chocolate πŸ™‚ all that stuff!

    and that stuff about the tryptophan is interesting…Dr. Oz had a show recently and he mentioned that hummus is good to eat pre-bed because hummus has tryptophan….interesting stuff.

  14. I wish I could contribute. Every once in awhile I get insomnia pretty bad and nothing seems to help. 😦 But I will try these tips!

  15. I always have a nighttime snack!! I love having greek yogurt with cocoa mixed in or a little bowl of oatmeal. I can’t sleep without food in my belly!! πŸ˜‰

  16. Interesting. My nutritionist told me to eat a protein/fat combo right before bed. I always wake up hungry in the middle of the night or I have to pee. I have no troubles falling asleep though – I am the one who always fell asleep first at sleepovers! πŸ˜€

  17. great list. I knew about yogurt… but found some of the other ones intresting.. Milk does the magic for me πŸ™‚

  18. Great post! I hate when I am trying to fall asleep and I am just making myself more awake. I need to keep this list in mind next time I have trouble sleeping. Usually I try to power down the computer an hour before sleep and relax by watching tv or reading.

  19. Love this list! I usually wnat oatmeal as an evening snack but I dont go with it because I feel like it would be too heavy! I am a huge fan of munching on popcorn at night though, usually while I watch tv!

  20. Hey Kelly!

    I love your list of tactics to fall asleep! Have you ever had moon drops? They’re herbal tablets that help you sleep and they always work!

  21. I’m a big fan of what I call my “yoga breathing.” as I’m laying in bed I picture each breath moving through my body. Konks me out in no time!

  22. I’m a big fan of turning all the lights out and listening to quiet music. I try to meditate a bit before I go to sleep! Always helps me calm my mind down

  23. These are great suggestions! I don’t have trouble falling asleep, just staying that way (thanks to my six year old and my puppy). I have been trying something I recently read about – visualizing your next day before falling asleep, then going through a list of things you are thankful for. I think it’s helping me fight those late night insomnia attacks, and definitely starts my next day in a more appreciative mood.

  24. I never seem to be sleepy now that I run so much. Is there a link between running and sleeping at all?
    I can see the glass of wine making you sleepy πŸ˜‰

  25. love you tips! I need to have len try them because he’s an insomniac.

  26. I like the glass of wine tip! Usually if I’m already in bed and can’t sleep, I lay there with my eyes closed and count backwards from 100 with each breath. It makes ur mind focus on breathing instead of the thoughts that are keeping you up.

  27. A bowl of ice cream or cereal puts me to sleep like a baby every night πŸ™‚

  28. I have a glass of wine every night (just about) before bed. Ive always had a hard time getting to sleep and I find it really, really helps.
    I also find watching tv with the lights off for half an hour in bed helps me get tired.

  29. The red bell pepper tip is interesting. I need to try that…sounds like experiment time!

  30. Where do you think of these great ideas for posts?!? Love it!

  31. I like to read before bed. It settles me down and relaxes me. I also usually have a glass of red wine.

  32. I eat popcorn almost every night!

    My tip for falling asleep is to try to reduce the anxiety attached to insomnia. When I’ve layed in bed all night and I can’t seem to fall asleep, usually I start fretting and worrying about how tired I’m going to be the next day.

    It really does work if I just tell myself that it doesn’t matter how sleepy I am during work. I will get through it no matter what.

  33. omg i always eat popcorn right before bed! I coat it with coconut oil and stevia and cinnamon and whatever else. good stuff, and i can vouch for that tip.

    other tip, get enough exercise the rest of your day, you’ll be tired come nite πŸ™‚

  34. If oatmeal before bed is a good sleep aid – does that mean it’s not a good wake-me-up-for-breakfast food?

  35. I know that this blog refers to mostly eating habits and sleep, which is something that you can influence. But even healthy people who would normally sleep well cannot overcome the sleep loss caused by the noise from a partner who snores. Unless you know the secret to overcoming snore noise distractions, you are stuck!
    I was one of those people and for years could not find a solution to this problem, no matter what I tried.
    Then I was blessed with having an idea (invention) that worked better than anything else out there and the heavens opened up. THERE IS A WAY TO COMPLETELY IGNORE YOUR PARTNER’S SNORING NOISE AND REMAIN IN THE SAME ROOM!
    I invite the author and readers to learn about it at I would love to hear your comments too.
    You can sleep right through the snoring, starting today!

  36. I knew there were even more health benefits to wine before bed! πŸ™‚ Though…I haven’t had anything to drink since starting Ironman training…sigh.

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