Foods that affect sleep: diet do's and don'ts

November 14, 2014

If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, a few simple changes to your diet could help you get a better night's rest.

Foods that affect sleep: diet do's and don'ts

We all know sleep is important for good health and happiness. Without it, you can feel sluggish and irritable. Over time, sleep deficits can lead to accidents, high blood pressure and obesity. If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, a few simple changes to your diet could help you get a better night's rest.

Things to avoid

Here's what you should steer clear of in order to peacefully drift off:

Caffeinated beverages

If you're having trouble sleeping, take a look at your caffeine intake. The obvious culprits are coffee, tea and sodas, but the decaf versions of these drinks still contain some caffeine. Drinking these beverages in the evening is a definite no-no, but if you're struggling to get the sleep you need, consider cutting them out of your diet entirely.

Certain medications

Many diet pills rely on caffeine to give you a boost of energy to burn off extra calories. Some pain medications also include caffeine, especially those designed to reduce headaches. Be sure to read the labels before taking these pills near bedtime or you could sabotage your sleep.

Chocolate desserts

It's a little-known fact that chocolate also contains caffeine. The one-two punch of chocolate and sugar in most desserts can keep you awake when you want to hit the sack, so try moving your dessert to lunchtime instead of after dinner.


Although a nightcap might seem like a quick-fix to get to sleep, it will likely reduce the quality of your sleep overall. Alcohol keeps your body from drifting into the deepest stages of sleep and can even cause you to wake up more frequently throughout the night.

Things to try

As a last resort, these at-home solutions can have you sawing logs in no time.

Warm milk

This traditional sleep aid relies on the tryptophan to make you drowsy. While some studies suggest that the protein in milk inhibits the body's ability to absorb tryptophan, many people report that this bedtime ritual provides comfort and a reliable way to wind down.

Turkey sandwiches

As anyone who has napped after Thanksgiving dinner knows, turkey is also packed with tryptophan. Pairing turkey with bread can make you feel even sleepier because the carbohydrates in the bread trigger your body to move into resting mode during digestion. This combination makes a turkey sandwich a good bedtime snack.

Fruit desserts

If the idea of a turkey sandwich for dessert doesn't address your sweet tooth, try replacing sugary chocolate or coffee desserts with fruit. The melatonin in cherries and the magnesium and potassium in bananas can regulate your sleep cycles and help you relax.

Valerian tea

Valerian root is a centuries-old herbal supplement used to promote sleep. It's a natural sedative that is included in many "sleepy time" herbal tea blends. Best of all, valerian tea doesn't contain caffeine, so it's a great choice for a soothing nighttime drink.

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