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Eating for Better Sleep

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Updated July 15, 2014

Double Handful Ripe Freshly Picked Organic Red Cherries
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The foods you eat (or don't eat) might help you get a better night's sleep.

Caffeine is the first thing to consider -- if you're drinking more than a cup or two of coffee a day, you might want to cut back, especially if you're drinking a lot of that coffee in the afternoon.

Quitting the caffeine habit isn't easy or comfortable. Many people suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, drowsiness, flu-like feelings, irritability and lack of concentration when they give up caffeine cold turkey.

You can avoid those symptoms by gradually withdrawing. Try blending decaffeinated coffee with regular coffee. Increase the amount of decaf over a few weeks time.

But the relationship between your diet and sleep doesn't end with caffeine. 

Avoid heavy or spicy foods. Or any foods you know that may cause heartburn, which can cause you to lose sleep.

Don't drink too much alcohol. Although alcohol may make you drowsy, over-consumption of your favorite adult beverages may cause a very restless uncomfortable night.

Eat cherries. Cherries contain melatonin, a substance also found in the human body that helps regulate sleep. Eating fresh or dried cherries before you go to bed at night may help you sleep better:

Enjoy a light bedtime snack. Have a small bowl of cereal and milk. Carbohydrates make it easier to fall asleep and dairy products contain tryptophan, which may also help. Bananas, oats, and honey also contain tryptophan.

Don't eat an excessive amount of fats. But, do get enough omega-3 fatty acid each day -- because eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has a role in sleep induction in your brain.

Sources:

Afaghi A, O'Connor H, Chow CM."High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset." Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Feb;85(2):426-30.

Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, Hardeland R, Reiter RJ."Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus)." J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Oct;49(10):4898-902.

Gruber R, Xi T, Frenette S, Robert M, Vannasinh P, Carrier J. "Sleep disturbances in prepubertal children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a home polysomnography study." Sleep. 2009 Mar 1;32(3):343-50.

Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Kasza K, Schoeller DA, Penev PD."Sleep curtailment is accompanied by increased intake of calories from snacks." Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):126-33. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Ozsungur S, Brenner D, El-Sohemy A."Fourteen well-described caffeine withdrawal symptoms factor into three clusters." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009 Jan;201(4):541-8. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

Shi Z, McEvoy M, Luu J, Attia J. "Dietary fat and sleep duration in Chinese men and women." Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Dec;32(12):1835-40. Epub 2008 Nov 4.

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