19 Aug 2014
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11 Foods That Help Bring on Sleep

Tip: Leave three hours between your last meal and bedtime.

If you've ever found yourself tossing and turning after a long day, think back to what you ate that evening and you'll likely identify the culprit.

There are certain  foods that'll keep you up all night and others that will help you drift off to dreamland. The best sleepers know to try and leave three hours between your last nosh and your desired bedtime since it takes time for your body to switch from "digest" mode to "decompress" mode.

Try ending your day with the following foods and you should be able to sleep a bit easier.


Hummus and pita bread: Chickpeas are chock full of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps your brain switch off and induces a state of restfulness. Blended with tahini and slathered onto a bit of toasted pita bread, the carbohydrates, combined with the tryptophan, make for a perfect late-night snack.

Dark greens for deep dreams: Eat a salad to put yourself in good stead for bedtime; dark, leafy greens (like spinach and kale) are rich in calcium, which helps your brain manufacture melatonin, a proven sleep aid. And as salads are easier to digest than more conventional meals, your body will be better prepared to bed down sooner.

Salad sprinkles: Throw a handful of sesame or pumpkin seeds on that salad, and you’ll be even better placed come pillow-time. Both seeds and nuts (specifically walnuts) are excellent sources of tryptophan.

Life is just a ... bowl of cherries! This healthy dessert is not only packed with Vitamins A and C, but also melatonin. The latter lowers the body’s temperature, which triggers drowsiness. Fun fact: your body produces more natural melatonin during your teenage years than any other segment of your lifetime—hence the dogged refusal of junior- and senior-high schoolers to rise and shine.

Get toasted: As previously mentioned, carbohydrates can kick-start sleep (in moderation). And by adding a pat of butter and drizzle of honey to a piece of toast, you’ll increase it’s tiring trajectory—the dairy has your dose of tryptophan, and the natural sugar in honey allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily.  

Bananarama: Every once in awhile the brain’s ready to switch off for the night, but the body’s not willing to comply. In these instances, a banana is your best bet. The magnesium and potassium in bananas work together as a natural muscle relaxant, and will help ease the soreness from a gym session naturally, overnight.

Tea for you: Valerian tea has been used as a sedative since the time of the ancient Greeks—and those guys really were onto something. Hippocrates prescribed it for insomnia way back when, and we still recommend it as a send-off to sleep today.

Game time: Although a Thanksgiving turkey takes a lot of heat for causing drowsiness, elk meat actually packs twice the tryptophan. So if you’re serious about your meat and you’re feeling beat, go for game—elk is also leaner than beef, and higher in protein than chicken.  

Sweet treat: Ah, delicious, dreamy chocolate. And if you’re a fan of the dark variety, you’re in luck—it contains serotonin, which relaxes the body and eases the mind by reducing the production of cortisol (a stress hormone).

Cheese and crackers: This classic snack brings together carby goodness, by way of the serotonin found in whole grain crackers, and dairy’s tryptophan. Just avoid the harder, smellier cheeses, which can have high levels of tyramine -- which will leave you tired, but also alert.

A warm glass of milk: This legendary bedtime staple may be more a psychological solution than one based on science, but who are we to begrudge grandma? Dairy does contain tryptophan, calcium has a calming effect on the body and nerves, and sometimes a traditional treatment actually is the best medicine.

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This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere. 

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