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Despite all these “solutions” being offered, many people still can’t
get enough sleep. Maybe the secret to a full night’s rest is in your
Let’s start by removing items that can interrupt your slumber.
Alcohol. One drink to avoid when you’re struggling to sleep:
alcohol. Though it may help you relax, alcohol keeps you from entering
the deepest, most restorative stages of sleep. If you have a nightcap
too close to bedtime, your full night’s rest might still leave you
feeling tired and lacking concentration.
Caffeine. Another obvious item to nix is caffeine, especially
later in the day. The caffeine in your afternoon coffee can remain in
your body for eight to 12 hours. It stimulates the central nervous
system, waking you up while triggering adrenaline and releasing
cortisol, a stress hormone.
Consuming caffeine is also an increasing problem as we age because
the way our bodies metabolize and tolerate caffeine changes. What was
once part of our daily routine can cause insomnia. That’s why it’s best
to ban those teas, cocoas, chocolates and soft drinks from your
Heavy meals. Some cultures make lunch the largest meal of the
day. Having a smaller meal at dinner aids digestion and helps with
sleep, too. A big, heavy, spicy or fatty meal close to bedtime can
interfere with your sleep and cause indigestion that can keep you up.
Keep evening meals and snacks light.
You may have heard of or even tried one of the many folk remedies for
beating sleepless nights. While the list of foods believed to be
natural sleep agents (soporifics) is long — from warm or cold milk to
chamomile tea — many of them may not actually help you sleep.
But there’s good news. Some research supports the idea that there are
a few foods that may help you sleep when eaten as a light snack before
For example, some foods have tryptophan, an amino acid that can cause
sleepiness by increasing the production of serotonin. Eating
carbohydrates along with foods containing tryptophan can help by making
more tryptophan available for serotonin production.
A nighttime ritual of eating a snack before bed may help you relax
and ease stress. Try these foods in small amounts before bed to see if
they work for you. Keep in mind that the science is inconsistent on
these potentially sleep-inducing foods.
Carbohydrate and protein combo. The best bedtime snack might
be a small amount of protein and a carb, like cottage cheese and whole
grain crackers, whole grain cereal and yogurt, or peanut butter on whole
Cherry juice. One study
showed that tart cherry juice can help sleep. Adults with chronic
insomnia who drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day noticed their
insomnia was less severe. Tart Montmorency cherries are rich in the
antioxidant melatonin, which may help promote sleep. Melatonin is a
natural hormone that regulates sleepiness. Your brain’s pineal gland
makes it and secretes it at night to help control your daily sleep-wake
Almonds and hazelnuts. Ready to get a little nutty before bed?
Almonds and hazelnuts contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that
plays a key role in regulating sleep. Try a small handful of almonds or
hazelnuts before bed.
Bananas. Bananas offer many nutrients in a disposable,
affordable package. Besides vitamin C and fiber, they contain
tryptophan. Bananas also offer magnesium and potassium and are a good
source of vitamin B6, which your body needs to make melatonin.
Yogurt. Calcium-rich foods like yogurt and milk make good
bedtime snacks. A shortage of calcium may cause you to wake up in the
middle of the night and prevent you from going back to sleep.
Your morning coffee, lunchtime salad and late-night pizza binge all
influence the chemicals, called neurotransmitters, your brain produces.
Some of them, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, play a
large role in whether you feel down in the dumps or as light as air.
Fortunately, many foods that nourish your body also can lift your
spirits or quiet your racing mind.
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