Who else has a love/hate relationship with sleep? There are those nights where it’s just so easy to drift off, and then others where you literally stare at the clock watching the minutes go by, willing yourself to bed. Other than keeping your room cool and dark, and maybe putting a few drops of some calming lavender oil on your pillow, you likely can’t think of anything else to do. However, it’s proven that if you eat a small snack before bed—only certain foods, of course—you’ll be able to doze off faster (and stay asleep all night long). Below, we’ve rounded up the top five foods to eat before bed to guarantee a good night’s sleep.
TART CHERRIES and RASPBERRIES
A recent study shows that people who drank an ounce of cherry juice twice a day for two weeks logged an extra 25 minutes of sleep each night—and slept better overall. But why? Tart cherry juice contains the amino acid tryptophan, which transforms into serotonin and then melatonin in your body (melatonin is a hormone that affects your sleep and wake cycles). Although raspberries don’t contain quite as much melatonin as cherries do, they are still a good food to eat before bed because they up your sleepiness level.
Science shows that eating carbohydrates before bed increases your level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for helping you fall asleep. “[Serotonin] soothes your brain into a calm and tranquil state so sleep comes easily,” says Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet. “If you awaken, serotonin prevents the anxiety demons from leaping out and filling your brain with worries that prevent you from falling back asleep.” If you’re looking for a carbohydrate relatively low in calories to have before bed, oatmeal is a great option, says Wurtman.
Try some avo before bed to get some more z’s. This fruit contains magnesium, which helps a lot of people sleep better. One study found that older adults who had insomnia slept better (and fell asleep faster) when they added magnesium to their diet.
This natural sweetener contains glucose, which sends a signal to your brain to shut off orexin (a chemical responsible for telling our body to be alert). But don’t go overboard. “Be careful not to overdo it,” says nutritionist Cynthia Pasquella. “One tablespoon for a good night’s sleep is plenty.”
Tea is a great option before bed—it keeps you full so you won’t wake up in the middle of the night. “You want to go to sleep not hungry, so something mildly nourishing like a cup of tea will fill your belly nicely,” says Jennifer Saltiel, a licensed clinical social worker in Manhattan. She suggests a chamomile tea containing valerian, an herbal supplement that has a calming effect (we like Yogi Bedtime Tea, $7).
Be sure to read about six sleep tips for babies that actually work, and tell us what foods you eat before bed to get a more restful night’s sleep.