When it comes to foods and drinks that negatively impact sleep, most people immediately think of coffee and other caffeinated items like dark chocolate and black tea. But what you may not know is that there’s a slew of other less-well-known foods that can mess with your ability to fall asleep and get enough sleep. Luckily, there’s also a group of foods with impressive health benefits that can help.

Continue reading for the full low-down on the best foods to eat—and what to avoid—to get a good night's sleep.

Almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts are natural sources of melatonin as well as the amino acid tryptophan, which plays an important role in the production of serotonin (the “happy hormone” that helps stabilize our mood) and melatonin (the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle). Additionally, they’re chock-full of magnesium, an essential mineral for bone, brain, heart, and muscle health.

Like nuts, seeds such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds may support healthy sleep due to their high levels of tryptophan, which supports serotonin and melatonin production.

Research shows that fish containing healthy sources of fat may facilitate sleep due to the concentration of Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids (involved in the regulation of serotonin levels) and Vitamin B6 (essential for the production of melatonin).

If you're preparing salmon at home, opt for wild-caught since it typically contains a higher concentration of Vitamin B6 than farmed. 

Don't eat fish? Consider vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as algal oil, which is included in Proper's CBD sleep supplements.

Turkey and chicken are both natural sources of tryptophan, which is essential for neurotransmitter (i.e. serotonin) and melatonin production.

Emphasis on the word lean here, since fattier cuts may take longer to digest and thus may hinder your sleep...more on that below.

Milk (especially warm milk), plain yogurt, and cottage cheese are all great options when it comes to dairy-rich foods that support sleep. The reason? Tryptophan, again. (1)

Although plain ol’ milk will do the trick, some suggest malted milk (Ovaltine or Horlicks) for added benefits due to its high levels of Vitamin B-12, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

In addition to potassium, everyone’s favorite smoothie add-in and peanut butter vessel packs a punch with magnesium and tryptophan to support sleep health.

In a 4-week study (2) conducted by Taipei Medical University, 24 subjects consumed two kiwis one hour before bed in order for researchers to observe the fruit’s effect on sleep patterns, including sleep onset, duration, and quality. Results showed that consuming kiwifruit before bedtime may help you fall asleep with improved sleep quality. This may be due to its high concentration of antioxidants and vitamins, such as folate.

Prunus cerasus, commonly known as tart cherry, was known to the Greeks as early as 300 B.C. Throughout the centuries since then, this potent ingredient has been used in a variety of foods, including soups, cakes, tarts, and pies. As a natural source of melatonin, tart cherries (and their juice) have been studied (3) as natural sleep remedies shown to increase exogenous melatonin and may lead to improved sleep duration and quality—which is why we included it as one of the key ingredients in our Sleep + Restore formulation.

READ MORE: The Proper Guide To Circadian Rhythms (sleep-wake cycle)

We know, we know. It’s weird that eggs support sleep since they’re, well, a breakfast food. But given their high source of tryptophan, (4) it may be worth experimenting with a loaded omelette or scramble for dinner instead.

Next time you’re brewing yourself a cup of post-dinner herbal tea, reach for chamomile. It’s rich in flavonoids, a group of natural plant chemicals (aka phytonutrients) that, in addition to contributing to the vivid hues of fruits and vegetables, also contribute to its sleep-promoting effects. Clinical trials (5) suggest that it functions as a central nervous system relaxer (similar to valerian). Chamomile extract has been shown to improve sleep quality and may be effective and safe for supporting general anxiety. (6-8)

READ MORE: 7 Best Teas For Sleep

Barley grass powder, which is a dehydrated form of the whole grain’s grass extract, is chock-full of sleep-promoting compounds such as GABA, calcium, tryptophan, magnesium, and potassium. It also touts a laundry list of other health benefits, including helping to regulate blood pressure, enhancing immunity, protecting the liver, improving gastrointestinal function, boosting cognition, and more. (9)

The superfood can be found at most health stores and pharmacies, as well as online. Next time you whip up a smoothie, toss in a tablespoon! It has a mildly bitter flavor that won’t overpower fruits like bananas or blueberries.

Like fatty fish, beans and chickpeas are high in amino acids and vitamins, which are important for serotonin production. Late-night hummus, anyone?

Caffeine—which can be found in tea, coffee, soda, energy drinks, and dark chocolate—has a half-life of 5-6 hours, or longer for people taking different types of medication. Sensitivities to caffeine vary, but because it’s a stimulant, it may cause difficulties in the onset of sleep if it’s still in your body’s system come bedtime. That’s why, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend limiting caffeine intake to before 2pm; however, if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine and/or typically go to bed around 10pm, you wouldn’t want to consume it after 12-1pm in the afternoon.

Although alcohol can be relaxing, it may have adverse sleep effects if consumed too close to bedtime (within 3-4 hours), including fragmented and non-refreshing sleep, increased snoring, delayed onset of REM sleep (the dream stage), and more frequent bathroom breaks.

Although everyone is different, the best practice is to refrain from eating a large meal within three hours of bedtime. If you’re hungry within that window, try reducing the quantity to a small bedtime snack and steering clear of carbohydrate-heavy, high-fat, fried, and/or spicy foods, which engage the digestive system to work on processing the meal. Foods with a high glycemic index should be avoided as well since they spike your blood sugar.

Avoiding acidic foods such as tomatoes/pasta sauce and citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits) too close to bedtime is recommended. Also, if you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux, it’s best to stay away from citrus before bed.

You can eat (and avoid) all the right foods, but if you don’t practice sleep hygiene, you’ll only get so far in achieving proper sleep health. Below are five tips to help you make beneficial behavioral changes to optimize your short and long-term sleep health:

  1. Avoid clock watching
    What to do:
    Turn the clock around before you go to sleep and avoid the temptation to look at the time should you wake up in the middle of the night.

    The science behind why it's beneficial:
    Seeing the time when waking up in the middle of the night or early morning can trigger a feeling of pressure to get back to sleep, thus activating the sympathetic system. Also, if your alarm clock has a screen, the blue light can trigger the light receptors in your eyes which, in turn, signal the time-keeper in the brain to be awake.

  2. Develop a nighttime routine
    What to do:
    Start your wind-down routine at least one hour prior to bedtime with a relaxing activity, such as reading content that is not too engaging or taking a bath.

    The science behind why it's beneficial:
    Avoiding excitement prior to bedtime is a way to lower sympathetic activation (the body’s fight or flight system). Activities that are too stimulating can engage this system and run interference with the onset and maintenance of sleep.

  3. Limit blue light exposure
    What to do:
    Dim bright light exposure 1-2 hours prior to bedtime.

    The science behind why it's beneficial:
    The light receptors in the eyes are linked to the time-keeper in the brain that regulates when we sleep and when we are awake. Bright light confuses this signal and may keep us awake when we’re exposed to it within 1-2 hours of bedtime.

  4. Practice proper in-bed behavior
    What to do:
    Use the bed for sleep and sex only, not as a hangout area. If this is impossible due to limited space or mobility, have a daytime look for the bed that you swap out at night (e.g., different pillows, sitting up rather than laying down, etc).

    The science behind why it's beneficial:
    If the bed becomes associated in our minds with activity, socializing, and other activities besides sleep, it is confusing for the brain to ALSO associate the bed with sleep. The goal? Bed = sleep, not bed = active mind, worry, and not sleeping.

  5. Try to get on a consistent sleep schedule
    What to do:
    Go to bed and get up around the same time every day—even on the weekends. 

    The science behind why it's beneficial:
    The physiological part of our bodies thrive off of routine because there are hundreds of processes based on the consistency of the 24-hour day. If the schedule of when we are awake and asleep varies considerably, it can cause confusion for the body and throw off these physiological processes, resulting in feelings of perpetual jet lag.

Looking for more science-backed things to try if you can't sleep? We've got you covered.

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