woman lying on bed, leftover food on plate
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What You Eat Affects How You Sleep

If you could pick the right foods to help you get the best sleep possible, wouldn't you? And if you knew which foods would hinder your restful slumber, wouldn't you avoid them? Now's your chance to learn which foods to eat, and which to steer clear of for a good night's sleep.

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Woman drinking milk, close-up
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Reach for Tryptophan-Rich Foods

We've all heard of warm milk's ability to send us off to dreamland. Do you know why it's true? Dairy foods contain tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other good sources include nuts and seeds, bananas, honey, and eggs.

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Cheese and crackers
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Indulge Your Craving for Carbs (A Little Bit)

Carbohydrate-rich foods help boost tryptophan in the blood. So a few good late-night snacks might include a bowl of cereal and milk, nuts and crackers, or bread and cheese.

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Man looking in refrigerator at night
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Have a Snack Before Bedtime

If you have insomnia, a little food in your stomach may help you sleep. But keep the snack small. A heavy meal will tax your digestive system, making you uncomfortable and unable to get your ZZZs.

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Cheeseburger and French fries, close-up
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Limit High-Fat Foods

Research shows that people who often eat these foods gain weight and their sleep cycles tend to get disrupted. Why? A heavy meal activates digestion, which can lead to nighttime trips to the bathroom.

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Hot chocolate with marshmallows
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Beware of Hidden Caffeine

It's no surprise that an evening cup of coffee might disrupt your sleep. Even moderate caffeine can cause sleep disturbances. But don't forget about less obvious caffeine sources, like chocolate, cola, and tea. Even decaf coffee has a trace of it -- but not enough to be a problem. For better sleep, cut all caffeine from your diet 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

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Two Aspirin Pills in Hand
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Medications May Contain Caffeine

Over-the-counter and prescription drugs that may have caffeine in them include pain relievers, weight loss pills, diuretics, and cold medicines. These and other medications may have as much or even more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Check the label of nonprescription drugs or the prescription drug information sheet to see if your medicine interferes with sleep or can cause insomnia.

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Couple watching television and drinking red wine
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Skip the Nightcap

Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but you might not sleep well, waking up often, tossing and turning, and even having headaches, night sweats and nightmares. It can help to down a glass of water for each alcoholic drink, to dilute the alcohol's effects. But for a good night's sleep, it's better to avoid alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

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Man eating chinese food at computer
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Beware of Heavy, Spicy Foods

Lying down with a full belly can make you uncomfortable, since the digestive system slows down when you sleep. It can also lead to heartburn, as can spicy cuisine. If you indulge in a heavy meal, finish it at least 4 hours before bedtime.

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Slab of medium-rare steak, close up
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Minimize Protein at Bedtime

Protein is great during the day. But not so much when you're ready for bed. It's harder to digest and contains the amino acid tyrosine, which promotes brain activity. So skip the high-protein snack before bedtime and opt for a small piece of cheese and some sleep-friendly carbs, like crackers.

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Person reaching round door to touch light switch
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Cut the Fluids by 8 P.M.

Staying hydrated throughout the day is great for your body, but cut it off before bed. You don't want to have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom after you turn in.

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Man smoking by electric lamp, silhouette
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Don't Smoke to Relax

Even if it's one of your favorite ways to unwind, smoking isn't a good idea -- night or day. Nicotine is a stimulant, with effects similar to caffeine. Avoid smoking before bedtime or if you wake up in the middle of the night. Keep trying to quit -- it's hard, but it's worth it.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 06/15/2017 Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on June 15, 2017

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
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REFERENCES:

Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more."

National Sleep Foundation: "Food and Sleep."

Sleep.com: "Eating Before Bed – The Good and the Bad."

HowStuffWorks.com: "How Caffeine Works."

Nemours. KidsHealth.org: "What Is Caffeine."

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point web site: "Caffeine Containing Products."

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point web site: "Caffeine Containing Products."

University of Maryland Medical Center, Sleep Disorders Center: "Sleep Hygiene: Helpful Hints to Help You Sleep."

HelpGuide.org: "How to Sleep Better."

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on June 15, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.