6 Foods Scientifically Proven to Help You Sleep


We've all been there. Tossing, turning, cursing our way into a stressful night without the one thing we want most of all: sleep. While there are ads upon ads pitching us prescription options for a more restful evening, most folks I know would rather snack their way to dreamland. With these foods proven by science to cause a sedative effect, it's possible!

1. Chamomile Tea

Used by cultures for thousands of years as a sleep aid, this mild herbal tea is made from the petals and centers of a few varieties of chamomile flowers. WedMD claims studies have shown the effects of the tea to be just as soothing as tranquilizers in laboratory rats, but for most people, it just causes a mildly relaxed feeling. Today's teas are available in almost every beverage aisle, including grape-flavored "kids" versions for helping even tots fall asleep.

2. Nuts

While foods containing tryptophan (like turkey and warm milk) haven't been given much clout when it comes to actually helping you sleep at night, melatonin is a widely accepted ingredient for those wishing for extra winks. Walnuts, it would seem, may be the perfect sleep food, as they contain substantial amounts of both tryptophan and melatonin, along with a healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acids for good measure. So the next time you're tempted to slam a glass of 2% before bed, reach for a handful of shelled walnuts to enjoy with your drink.

No walnuts on hand? Try a serving of almonds, which are high in magnesium — a necessary nutrient for staying asleep once you get there.

3. Tart Cherry Juice

This super-sour beverage has been used in recent years to assist with all kinds of ailments, including arthritis and gout. A more compelling reason to pour a small glass of cherry juice, however, may be to help catch more Zs. A recent study showed that adults who consumed one ounce each in the morning and at night experienced a more efficient sleep pattern, gaining an average of 39 additional minutes of sleep a night!

What cherry varieties are the best? Opinions differ, but Montmorency is probably the most commonly sold kind in stores and health food shops. Be sure you know what you are buying, as some juice is sold in 100% potency, while other juice may be a dilution. One ounce of pure juice is much different than its watered down counterparts, and it's more expensive, too!

4. Carbs

While not an excuse to snag a bag of chips before bed, acknowledging the relationship between a small carbohydrate-rich snack and more restful sleep can give you permission to dip into the rice bowl. In fact, recent studies show that complex carbs (Jasmine rice, in particular) promote healthy levels of serotonin and insulin, giving you the optimal conditions for a tranquil evening.

5. Dairy

Calcium and tryptophan work together to promote a quicker sleep for most people. (Those with dairy intolerances will want to avoid cheese before bed, however.) Warm up that glass of milk, if you must, but a nice yogurt may be more satisfying!

6. Power Snacks

For the best bang for your grocery buck, the Cleveland Clinic recommends combining two or more of the best sleepy foods for one healthy snack. Recommended duos include:

  • Banana with low-fat yogurt;
  • Low-fat cottage cheese with a few 100% whole grain pita chips;
  • Apple with mozzarella string cheese.

It's important to remember that — whichever food you start with — it may take time to see any measurable results. You'll also want to budget for those additional calories you may be consuming at the end of each day; unchecked snacking before bed is one of the most common causes of unintended weight gain for many people.

What helps you fall asleep and stay asleep? Please share in comments!

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