Swap your steak for dinner for lighter fare. Eating big meals before bedtime can lead to acid reflex, says William Orr, PhD, president and CEO of Lynn Health Science Institute in Oklahoma City. A lot of people don’t know it, but they can have heartburn while sleeping and wake up tired. A turkey burger is a great evening meal because it contains tryptophan—the same sleep-inducing chemical that puts you into a food coma on Thanksgiving.
The tryptophan in this Middle Eastern dip helps create the sleep-promoting hormones serotonin and melatonin, says Archelle Georgiou, MD, chief clinical officer of EmpowHER, an online women’s health resource. Scoop it up with pita chips: They contain complex carbs, which make tryptophan more readily available in the brain and increase insulin, another sleep helper.
Studies shows that honey contains a form of fructose that releases slowly into the blood stream, preventing you from waking up in the middle of night with hunger pains, says Georgiou. Drizzle it on any bedtime snack.
Skip your nightcap, says Georgiou. Yes, alcohol makes you sleepy, but in the long run itprohibits you from getting into deep sleep and makes you wake up tired. Chamomile tea, on the other hand, has natural sedating effects that are perfect for your before-bed ritual.
Have a glass an hour before bed, suggests Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Milk helps the brain use tryptophan and promotes the production of melatonin, which shortens the amount of time that it takes you to fall asleep. The calcium in milk also acts as a natural muscle relaxant.
“Fresh and dried cherries are one of the few natural food sources of melatonin, which helps your body regulate sleep cycles and supports healthy cellular replication and restful sleep,” says California-based integrative doctor Isaac Eliaz, MD. Eat some out of hand or sprinkle them atop your after-dinner dessert.
Don't just roast these at Halloween: Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in magnesium, which, according to Eliaz, calms your body and mind for a great night of sleep. Having enough magnesium in your systems decreases the chances of muscle tremors, cramps and anxiety. Toss a handful of seeds into soups, smoothies or atop salads.
Eat a few pretzels before bedtime to promote better sleep. They’re rich in simple carbohydrates, which are easily digested and help increase tryptophan and serotonin levels in the brain, says Eliaz. Dip the pretzels in peanut butter or honey for an even bigger boost.