Foods That Help You Sleep Better

Most of us know that mindless munching after dinner (usually in front of the TV or a computer) can derail even the best weight loss plans. But what many people don’t consider is how these late-night nibbles can impact the quality of their sleep, as well.

Eating large, heavy meals late in the evening can make you feel uncomfortably full and keep you up tossing and turning. But a light snack (200 calories or less) with the right mix of ingredients can actually help you get a better night’s rest.

Among the best natural sedatives is tryptophan, an amino-acid component of many plant and animal proteins. Tryptophan is one of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, a brain chemical that helps you feel calm and can make you drowsy. The trick is to combine tryptophan-containing foods like turkey, low-fat dairy, and eggs with carbohydrates, which help transport tryptophan into the brain, where it can make you sleepy.

A 2005 study of people with chronic insomnia found that after three weeks, those who ate foods with high amounts of tryptophan with carbohydrates or who took pharmaceutical-grade tryptophan supplements had improvements on several measures of sleep – and the food sources worked just as well as the supplements.

When nighttime munchies come calling, a plain rice cake (those are your carbs) with some low-fat cheese (that’s your tryptophan source) is the perfect sleep-inducing snack. Other good options are a slice of turkey on whole-grain crackers, or banana slices over low-fat frozen yogurt. For best results, combine your nightly snooze-inducing snack with these healthy sleep habits.