Sometimes it is hard to summon the sandman, especially after a stressful day. We all know to stay away from caffeine and alcohol at night because these foods can inhibit quality sleep. But nutritionists say that certain bedtime snacks can play a role in not only helping you fall asleep, but staying asleep too, so that you wake up rested and refreshed.
According to AARP, eating a well-balanced dinner that contains protein, carbohydrates and fiber at least two hours before going to bed is ideal. But if you find yourself hungry after dinner, there are foods that can help, not hinder, a good night’s sleep.
- Kiwi. This fruit contains a high concentration of serotonin, says registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty. One study found that people who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime fell asleep more readily and slept for a longer period of time than when they didn’t eat the fruit.
- Cheese. A slice or two of cheese is the ideal bedtime snack, says Bonnie-Taub-Dix, a New York-based registered dietitian. “This protein-packed snack is also full of calcium, magnesium and tryptophan, all of which are necessary for a good night’s sleep.”
- Tea. Chamomile tea has been used for decades all over the world to promote sound sleep. It contains the antioxidant apigenin which promotes calm and sleepiness. Other sleep-inducing teas include valerian root, lavender, and lemon balm.
- Tart cherries and their juice. According to Everyday Health, tart cherries contain melatonin, a key hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. In one study, adults who drank 8 ounces of concentrated tart cherry juice twice daily for one week reported better sleep patterns. Make sure to purchase 100% fruit juice with no added sugar to derive the full benefits.
- Almonds or walnuts. A small handful of these nuts can satisfy hunger pangs while setting the stage for a good night’s sleep. That’s because they contain natural melatonin, protein, and magnesium. Research has found that the mineral magnesium may help reduce insomnia in older adults. Nutritionists recommend buying unsalted nuts because salt can disrupt the sleep cycle.
- Yogurt. Like other dairy foods, yogurt contains melatonin to improve sleep efficiency. But it also contains calcium, a mineral that plays a role in processing hormones such as tryptophan that help you sleep, says the American Sleep Association (ASA).
- Bananas. These handy packages of nutrition contain potassium which helps keep you asleep throughout the night. Bananas also contain tryptophan and magnesium which are natural sedatives, says the ASA.
- Whole grains. Grains encourage insulin production that results in tryptophan activity in the brain. They also have magnesium which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. A bowl of whole grain cereal with minimal sugar and some low-fat milk is an excellent bedtime snack, according to Everyday Health.