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Foods to help you 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.

Eat for a good night's sleep

Believe it or not, the foods you eat can affect how well you sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can be a difficult task for many people, but we can make it a little easier by eating the right foods throughout the day. To get a more restful sleep follow these simple diet tips.

Woman eating toast

Skimp on caffeine

Caffeine is one of the biggest thieves of a healthy sleep cycle, so try watching your caffeine intake each day, stick to one or two cups maximum. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours so, if you just can't get through the day without your morning latte, drink your last cup at least 12 hours before you know you want to fall asleep. Try cutting out caffeine for just one or two days and you will probably see a vast difference in your sleep. You don't have to go cold turkey off of coffee, but slowly reducing your intake each day will definitely help your sleep.

Cut back on alcohol

Although alcohol can usually make us fall asleep quickly, you will not be getting a restful sleep. Chances are you will wake up a few times and will toss and turn all night. To avoid this, try not to consume alcohol at least two hours before going to sleep.

Save the big meal for lunch

Eat like the Spanish and Italians do, with the larger meal midday and the smaller meal at night. Eating a large, rich meal before bedtime will likely keep you up because your body will be busy working hard to digest it instead of trying to relax and fall asleep. If you know you are having a large meal at night, don't skimp on your daytime meals. Skimping will cause your blood sugar to spike because your body is not prepared to digest a large amount of food.

What to eat and what not to eat before bed

If you are hungry before falling asleep, it is perfectly okay to have a light snack, but be sure to choose the correct foods. Certain foods will help you sleep and others may hinder it. For example, drinking warm milk may not actually help you fall asleep in a scientific sense; it may just be a mental thing (because the warm milk is comforting). Some studies have even shown that it can keep you up because the lactose is difficult to digest. Other foods to avoid as midnight snacks are spicy foods, things with garlic, anything that may cause you to have gas, and anything with a high fat or sodium content.

Foods to eat that may help you sleep better are carbohydrate-rich foods that break down slowly and help release tryptophan, which everyone knows as the sleep chemical from turkey. Crackers and fruit, toast and jam, oatmeal, granola, a peanut butter sandwich, and anything that is rich in whole grain carbs and low in sugars will help you sleep much better. For dinner, indulge in carbs a little more than you usually might. For example, rice or pasta with tomato sauce is a great option if you have problems sleeping.

Stay healthy and well-balanced

Eating a well-balanced diet throughout the day of natural, unprocessed foods will help you sleep better at night. The more unnatural sugars and chemicals your body has in it, the harder they are to digest and the more your sleep cycle will be off. You may not think that donut you eat at 8 a.m. will affect your sleep later at night, but it does. Also, making sure to get your daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals helps keep your body balanced and will not throw off your sleep patterns. Finally, daily exercise will keep your mind and body healthy, which will help you sleep better—just try to avoid late night exercising because that can have an adverse affect and keep you awake.

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