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Consider adding a few of the following 9 foods to your evening diet. They're recommended by experts to help send you to dreamland -- and improve your sleep when you get there!
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Honey - A little taste of honey, about a tablespoon, can help you on your way to sleep. Honey contains glucose, a chemical that stops orexin production - a chemical known to trigger alertness -- in the brain. If you're not a fan of honey on its own try adding it to one of the other foods on our list! It's a great accompaniment to so many healthy snacks!
Almonds & Walnuts - Almonds are the ideal choice if you crave a crunchy snack before bed. These nuts contain magnesium, tryptophan and melatonin, all sleep promoting aids that will naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while steadying your heart rhythm.
Cherries - They taste great, and they're great for you too! Cherries (especially tart ones) are one of the few natural foods that contain melatonin, a chemical that controls the bodys internal clock and helps regulate sleep. Eating cherries, or having a glass of cherry juice in the evening before bed, can help to regulate and normalize your sleep cycle for successful and restful sleep. If you're not a cherry fan, consider raspberries and grapes as they're both high melatonin foods as well.
Oatmeal - You might want to change your mind about eating oatmeal for breakfast. Not only is oatmeal warm and soothing before bed, it contains a cornucopia of sleep supporting nutrients like magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorous. The grains in oatmeal also help trigger insulin production, which raises your blood sugar naturally making you sleepy. Don't like oatmeal on its own? Try topping it off with a bit of honey, bananas, nuts or berries -- they're all great for sleep as well!
Bananas - We all know that Bananas are good for us -- they're filled with potassium which we need for heart and brain health -- but they're great for promoting healthy sleep as well. Bananas contain high levels of tryptophan and they're natural nerve and muscle relaxers so they're a perfect snack for calming down after a stressful day. Bananas are a good source of Vitamin B6 which is needed to make melatonin, and they're high in magnesium which is critical to overall bone, cardiovascular and immune system health.
Yogurt - The jury is still out on whether a warm glass of milk before bed can help you sleep; but a bit of yogurt definitely could. Research suggests that calcium-deficiency can make it difficult to fall asleep and yogurt is filled with calcium and tryptophan. Calcium helps to relieve stress and stabilizes nerve fibers to calm you down; and tryptophan in the body metabolizes into serotonin and melatonin -- two of the main chemicals responsible for causing you to doze off!
Dark Chocolate - As if we needed an excuse to eat chocolate, dark chocolate contains serotonin, which will help relax your body and mind. A perfect late night snack to help you snooze. Remember just a bit is enough though; so don't eat too much and make sure to avoid milk chocolate It's a stimulant.
Whole Grain Cereals & Toast - Natural whole grain breads and cereals are rich in magnesium and the complete carbohydrates that increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream. Complement whole grains with a bit of milk and yogurt and you've got a sure winner for your body and a good night's sleep.
Tea (Decaffeinated is Best!) - What could be better than a warm, rich cup of tea before bed. Natural chamomile herbs have been used for centuries to promote health and promote calmness and sleep. Green tea is another good option if chamomile is not your thing. Green tea is rich in theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress and anxiety.
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In addition to what you eat, when you eat can effect how well you sleep. For a good night's rest be sure to eat a small snack a few hours before bedtime. Don't go to bed hungry, but avoid eating right before bed as your body needs time to digest what you eat and this can keep you awake. Avoid large, high-fat meals late in the day as well due to the potential for heartburn and discomfort.
Knowing which foods will pick you up or slow you down will help ensure you stay alert during the day and avoid long, sleepless nights.
Read our companion article 9 Foods to Avoid in the Hours Before Sleep to learn which foods to steer clear of in the hours before bedtime.