What to eat (and avoid) for better sleep

Don’t you hate it when you’re nestled all snug in your bed, but you can’t get visions of sugar plums to dance in your head? There are all kinds of reasons why you might have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. Stress, caffeine, or medications could be the culprit— or it could be the food you ate during the day. We’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts to help you get a more restful night’s sleep. 

When to eat for a restful night’s sleep

Are you a late-night snacker? The time you eat is almost as important as the food you eat. You should finish your last meal two to three hours before going to sleep to give your body plenty of time to digest the food. 

What to eat 


There’s a reason a warm glass of milk is proffered to sleepless kids in TV shows and movies. It contains two compounds essential to a great night’s sleep: melatonin and tryptophan. Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythm, telling your body it’s bedtime. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps create serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps boost your mood and increase relaxation. 

Chamomile tea

Not into sipping dairy products before bed? A nice, hot cup of chamomile tea, drank about 45 minutes before going to bed, is a great alternative. Chamomile contains the chemical compound apigenin, which binds with GABA receptors in the brain to promote a relaxing sedative effect. 


Dry-roasted almonds aren’t quite as festive as chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but they’re excellent for sleep! The tree nuts contain antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, and melatonin. 


Swap your sugary dessert before bed for two kiwis, and enjoy the sleep-inducing benefits of the fruit’s serotonin, vitamins C and K, potassium, and fiber. In one study, 42% of participants fell asleep faster on the days when they ate kiwi than on the days when they didn’t.  


There’s a reason Thanksgiving naps are so common. Turkey, along with other types of poultry, contains tryptophan. When eaten with carbohydrates (helloooo, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes!), your body releases insulin, lowering all amino acid levels except tryptophan. Cue the ZZZs. 

What to avoid if you want a full night’s sleep


Even those who say caffeine doesn’t affect them are affected on a cellular level. Caffeine reverses the effects of adenosine, a chemical compound your body creates to produce the need for sleep. 


It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Alcohol is a sedative, and sedatives are for sleep, right? A couple of drinks may help you fall asleep, but you’re likely to wake up feeling less than refreshed in the morning. Alcohol can keep your body out of the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle, which is essential for memory formation, emotional processing, and helping you feel rested. 

If all you want this holiday season is a great night’s sleep, you’re not alone! Follow these tips for better sleep and take time to rest and relax. Your to-do list will be waiting for you after you’ve had a full night’s sleep. 

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