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Foods that help you sleep better

Michelle Dudash, RD, is nationally recognized as an expert in teaching people how health and food can happily co-exist. Through her 18 years of food business experience as a Le Cordon Bleu certified chef having cooked at a five star rest...

Eat for good sleep

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 70 million people in the US are affected by a chronic sleep disorder or intermittent sleep problems. A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation suggests that inadequate sleep is associated with unhealthy lifestyles and negatively affects health and safety. If you’re running out of sheep to count at night, try working some of these foods into your diet.

Woman drinking tea at night

Mellow Out on Melatonin

Experts recommend the antioxidant melatonin as one way to get a better night's rest. Produced naturally by the body in small amounts, it plays a role in inducing sleepiness at night and wakefulness during the day. Foods such as cherries, oats and nuts contain natural sources of melatonin, and when eaten regularly, may help regulate the body's natural sleep cycle. Melatonin also helps increase sleep efficiency, helping you fall asleep more quickly.

For a boost of melatonin, try these snack and meal ideas:

  • Stir dried cherries and walnuts into your bowl of oatmeal.
  • Toss toasted almonds and dried cherries into a spinach salad.
  • Make a smoothie with frozen cherries, yogurt and milk, and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Carbs are ok before Bedtime

If you struggle with insomnia, a little food in your stomach may help you sleep. Carbohydrates in particular boost serotonin, the hormone that helps you feel calm and sleepy. Enjoy some cereal and milk, cheese and crackers, or a yogurt and strawberry parfait -- but keep portions small so they don't tax your digestive system. If you needed one more reason to get your three-a-day, dairy foods also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which promotes sleep.

Nocturnal No-no's

Consuming caffeinated drinks such as coffee, cola, black tea and energy drinks within eight hours of bedtime may stimulate you too much before settling down for the evening. Instead of soda, drink a glass of sparkling water with lime wedges to get through the afternoon energy slump. Watch out for hidden sources of caffeine, such as chocolate, as well as migraine and allergy medications.

While many people associate alcohol with relaxation, too much before bedtime actually disrupts sleep cycles, giving you a lower-quality, less deep sleep. Instead of that third glass of wine, try a cup of soothing chamomile tea.

meditation & Sleep

Guided meditation for sleep: How to meditate

Find a peaceful spot just before going to bed and listen to this meditation. Allow yourself to relax and unwind. Whatever has happened in your day let go.

More on getting sound sleep

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