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If, like one out of every 10 Americans, a good night’s sleep seems like a dream to you, put down that glass of Chablis and back away from the Ambien. There are better ways to catch some Z's. These five good-for-you things to eat and drink can improve your relationship with Mr. Sandman -- no prescription required.

1. Eggs And Toast

Want a good night’s sleep? Skip sweets in favor of protein and whole grains. "People that eat breakfast -- not a doughnut -- but a 1-2-3 breakfast that has some protein, a pop of color and a whole grain have more energy throughout the day and have an easier time sleeping at night," says Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietitian and the author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. So does this make breakfast the most important meal of the day and night?  

2. Oatmeal

Sure, it makes a great breakfast, but it turns out this good-for-you grain is even better for you at night.That’s because a light, carb-centric snack about an hour before bedtime is the single best way to induce sleep, says Somer. A cup or two of air-popped popcorn, half an English muffin with jam or a small bowl of cereal with milk will work as well. Why? Carbs contain high amounts of serotonin, which come nightfall, your body converts into melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. A quick hit before bed won’t overload your digestive system, but will make it easier to activate your internal off switch.

3. Bananas

You may not consider downing a banana to be the perfect nightcap, but doing so very well may aid your sleep as much or more than anything you can buy over the counter. Bananas contain magnesium, a muscle relaxant, plus they're loaded with both serotonin and melatonin, so, um, goodnight.

4. Almonds

"Almonds stabilize your blood sugar levels and contain magnesium, which promotes sleep and muscle relaxation," says Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! Walnuts are also a solid source of melatonin.

5. Chamomile Tea

If you’re serious about getting more sleep, skip your nightcap and sip some tea instead. "There are a lot of natural sleep aids," says Mari Viola-Saltzman, D.O., a specialist in sleep medicine and adult neurology at the North Shore University Health System in Chicago. "Valerian root, German chamomile and lavender are all from plants," she says, "and preliminary studies indicate they may help."

What won’t work is hard drinking before hitting the hay: "Red wine, in particular, may make people fall asleep," Viola-Saltzman explains. "As it metabolizes, the byproducts of the alcohol cause more awakenings."

So next time you're staring at the clock in the middle of the night, don't just lie there, eat!


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