7 Foods That Help You Sleep
They’re not just for pie filling: Cherries contain melatonin, a compound that plays a part in healthy sleep. “Melatonin may help regulate sleep-wake cycles,” Moore says, “especially for people experiencing a disruption to the body’s internal clock, like night-shift workers.”
Best bet: Keep cherries fresh longer by storing them in the refrigerator and washing them just before eating.
Other sources of melatonin: Oats, sweet corn, rice
Try this: Make cherry relish to accompany a turkey sandwich. Saute fresh ginger, garlic and onion in a small amount of vegetable oil; add coarsely chopped cherries and continue to saute until the cherries begin to soften. Serve hot or cold.
Tuck in With Turkey
This deli counter staple contains an amino acid called tryptophan. “Tryptophan helps the body produce the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin, which has been shown to aid in relaxation and sleep,” says Marisa Moore, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Best bet: It takes about an hour for tryptophan to act on your brain, so plan your night noshing accordingly.
Other sources of tryptophan: Chicken, tuna, soy foods, whole-grain bread
Try this: Get a double dose of tryptophan by combining turkey and whole-grain bread.
Calcium-fortified soy milk boasts two sleep-boosting nutrients: tryptophan, which increases the snooze-inducing serotonin in the brain, and calcium, which helps your body use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin, another natural sleep aid.
Best bet: Heat it up a bit—some people find a warm drink is more relaxing than something straight from the fridge.
Other sources of calcium: Milk, cheese, yogurt
Try this: Use soy milk to make instant pudding, and then layer with fruit and fat-free whipped topping for a bedtime parfait, suggests Holly Clegg, author of the Trim & Terrific cookbook series.
Tea for Tonight
A warm cup of tea before bed can soothe and relax you—but only if it’s decaffeinated. Chamomile tea fits the bill. Plus, chamomile is traditionally used as a sleepy-time herb.
Best bet: Make your tea strong. Use one chamomile tea bag, but cut the water in half—drinking too much liquid before bed will have you getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Another relaxing tea:Mint tea
Try this: Add honey and lemon for a more complex flavor.
Cereal made with whole grains such as wheat or oats help with sleep in two ways: First, whole-grain cereal contains the snooze-inducing amino acid tryptophan. Second, the fiber and complex carbohydrates in whole-grain cereal increase insulin in the blood, which may help more tryptophan get to the brain.
Best bet: Whole-grain cereal with little or no added sugar.
Other sources of whole grains: Oatmeal, whole-grain bread
Try this: Instead of cow’s milk, pour soy milk over your cereal, or mix it into low-fat yogurt.
Cashews are a rich source of magnesium. Research has found that people whose diets are low in magnesium may have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep than those who get enough magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health, substantial numbers of Americans don’t get the recommended daily amount of magnesium. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may be one of them.
Best bet: Keep sodium to a minimum by choosing unsalted cashews.
Other sources of magnesium: Whole grains, milk, green leafy vegetables, other nuts
Try this: Create your own snack mix, suggests Clegg. Combine cashews, pretzels, toasted corn cereal squares and dried cranberries; toss with honey, a splash of soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil. Bake in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
The National Institutes of health says that 12 million Americans have restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition that can interfere with sleep by causing an irresistible urge to move the legs. RLS can be caused by a deficiency of iron or vitamin B-12, and beef is an excellent source of both.
Best bet: Combine beef with foods such as bread that contain folic acid, which may also be in short supply among people with RLS.
Other sources of iron and B-12: Tuna, chicken
Try this: An hour or two before hitting the hay, tuck into a sandwich made with slices of lean roast beef on whole-grain bread.