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Foods that help you sleep

Foods to help you snooze

Sometimes sleep just doesn't come easy, no matter how exhausted your brain and body may feel. If you are one of the many people who don't feel comfortable taking prescription sleeping aids and want a more natural alternative to help with getting to sleep, one of the easiest things you can do is change your eating habits. By eliminating foods that can keep you awake and snacking on healthy sleep-inducing foods, you can get those much needed nightly Z‘s.

Woman drinking milk in pajamasEliminate these foods and get your beauty sleep

Even though you crave that double shot mocha and chocolate chip scone every day during the dreaded afternoon lull, you're setting yourself up for a night without sound sleep. 

"Caffeine and sugar-laden foods can override your natural biorhythms," explains Esther B. Horn a registered dietitian and holistic nutritionist in New York City and founder of EatDrinkandbeGorgeous.com. "This is great if you want to actually pull an all-nighter, but in most cases can hinder a good night's sleep."

The amount of time it takes for your body to clear out the caffeine can vary from person to person. Some people may take up to 24 hours and therefore should only have one cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Others can handle an espresso after dinner and still be able to sleep. "It really depends on the individual and how their liver handles caffeine," says Horn.

A sugar crash isn't the way to get to sleep either. "Sugar will temporarily make you feel more awake, and then you'll crash and burn within the hour," explains Horn. "Then, to compound the issue, you can wake up a few hours later from hypoglycemia."

Foods that can help you sleep

Certain foods are conducive to sound slumber. Include more of these healthy foods in your diet for a good night's slumber.

Turkey

"Turkey is rich in the amino acid tryptophan which helps promote a restful, deep sleep. Tryptophan itself doesn't make you sleepy," says Horn. It helps the brain make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is necessary for sleep and relaxation, and melatonin, a neurohormone that has recently become popular as a supplemental sleep aid.

Mashed potatoes

Despite being maligned by the low-carb movement, potatoes rank low on the Glycemic Index, a ranking of carbohydrates and their effect on blood glucose levels. Sweet potatoes and potatoes are a root vegetables that won't spike your blood sugar too high and can even help eliminate acids that block tryptophan. Make mashed potatoes with low-fat milk or buttermilk for a healthy sleep-inducing meal. 

Bananas

Bananas are a natural sleeping aid in that they contain melatonin and tryptophan (which converts to serotonin) to help you fall asleep. "Melatonin is a hormone that signals the brain that it's time for the body to shut down for the night," explains Horn. Plus, these creamy-fleshed fruits also contain magnesium, which is a known muscle relaxer to help you ease away physical tension and stress.

Milk

Mothers have been giving kids warm milk before bed for years. "Warm milk is another rich source of tryptophan, which is soothing and will help your body relax," says Horn. Be warned, however, "The combination of turkey and milk together can turn you into a bit of a gassy lassie," says Horn. "Do not try this out if you're in a new relationship!"

Oatmeal

Oatmeal not only warms your belly, it's full of fiber, which can make you feel satisfied before heading to bed. A steamy bowl of cooked oats is also a good source of melatonin. Drizzle your bowl of oatmeal with warm milk for an extra dose of sleep-inducing nutrition. 

Supplements to help you sleep

If all else fails, you can take mineral supplements that will help ease you to sleep without the negative side effects of prescription sleeping aids.

Horn recommends these supplements as a natural way to get your Z's:

  • Calcium 500mg-800mg
  • Magnesium 400mg
  • Inositol 2000mg

"Or taking an Epsom salt bath before bed is another wonderful source of magnesium -- some of which gets absorbed via the skin," says Horn. "Dump two cups of salts into a warm bath and soak for 15 minutes. Gorgeous you!"

Changing your diet, taking supplements and soaking in a bath are easy and natural ways to ensure you get the sleep you need.

More on why sleep matters and how to get more it

Burn fat while you sleep
How to develop healthy sleep habits
Why women have trouble sleeping and strategies to sleep better

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