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Food and drink rules for a better night's sleep

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

GET YOUR ZZZZZ'S

Can't seem to fall asleep? Plagued by a long night of fruitless tossing and turning? Getting sufficient sleep is a key in keeping you healthy - follow these rules to put a stop what is keeping you up.

GET YOUR ZZZZZ'S1. Drink warm milk. There is truth to your grandmother's advice when she told you to drink a glass of warm milk before going to sleep. The chemical tryptophan, which is found in turkey, and induces sleep, is also found in milk. Plus, the calcium in warm milk will help soothe your nerves. Savor a warm mug 15 minutes before going to sleep to calm your whole body.

2. Drink herbal tea. If warm milk doesn't do it for you, drink a cup of warm chamomile, anise, fennel, or mint tea. There are even specific teas that can be purchased, such as Sleepytime tea, that help you sleep. Add some honey if you need a sweetener.

3. Eat a small bedtime snack. Studies have found that a small, carbohydrate-packed, low protein snack will help you fall asleep sooner because carbohydrates digest much quicker than protein. Juice and cookies, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, cashews, or peanut butter and jelly eaten an hour before you are ready to hit the hay will help you get your zzzz's.

4.Avoid caffeine. Drinking coffee after breakfast time can affect your sleep patterns. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours – limit your consumption of coffee, caffeinated tea, cola, and chocolate to early in the day. If you just have to have that mid-day cup of java or tea, drink decaf instead. You can even go extreme and gradually wean yourself off of caffeine altogether. If you find yourself sleeping better after a week, then you know the caffeine was the likely cause of your insomnia.

5. Avoid spicy foods. Spicy foods such as garlic and peppers can give you heartburn and indigestion which can keep you up at night. If you know you are sensitive to hot foods, avoid them at dinner.

6. Avoid late dinner hours. Food eaten later in the evening can cause restlessness because your body is working on digesting rather than letting you sleep. Have your largest meal at lunchtime or have an early dinner. If you have to eat late, eat something small, high in carbohydrates, and low in protein and fat (protein and fat take longer to digest).

7. Avoid gas-inducing vegetables. Vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, beans, or Brussels sprouts, can cause you to have gas, making you too uncomfortable to sleep. Try eating these foods earlier in the day or look into an anti-gas remedy like Beano.

8. Eat slowly. Quickly eating a meal – especially large meals – can cause an upset stomach. Slow down and enjoy the foods you eat. Eat with your senses.

9. Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Because alcohol is a depressant, you may think a night of drinking will quickly put you out, but alcohol actually causes restless sleep. Avoid alcohol at least two hours prior to bedtime. Tobacco, which is a stimulant, can prevent you from even getting to sleep. Smoking or chewing boosts your energy, making it harder to get some rest.

10. Check your iron level. Women with lower iron levels often have troubled sleep. Check with your doctor to determine if you are anemic. Your doctor may suggest an iron supplement and encourage you to eat iron-rich foods such as spinach, red meat, apricots, chickpeas, and fortified cereals.

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