Not all cherries are created equal, and not all will help you sleep. Tart cherries rather than sweet or maraschino cherries could help you rest at night. “There is research to show they have melatonin, which is a hormone that helps you sleep,” says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Food & Mood ($18, amazon.com) and Eat Your Way to Happiness ($8, amazon.com). “When there is an increased level of melatonin in your body, it helps you sleep better.”
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Mom always said to drink a warm glass of milk before bed—and it turns out she was right. “Anything warm raises the body temperature, and that naturally makes you feel sleepy,” says Somer. “It’s like an internal bubble bath.”
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Tea, another hot liquid, has a similar relaxing effect as a warm glass of milk. The lack of caffeine in chamomile tea is also beneficial as it won’t cause you to wake up mid-slumber. “If chamomile isn’t your thing, you can always try herbal or decaffeinated tea for relaxation,” says dietician Shirley Fan, M.S., R.D.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Have a slice of toast before bed: The carbohydrates can raise brain levels of tryptophan, which can make you sleepy. Any type of bread will work, but whole grain is best, says Somer. “The advantage of whole grain is that it supplies the body with many more nutrients and doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as much as refined grains.”
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Whole Wheat Cereals
Like whole wheat bread, whole wheat cereals help convert tryptophan into melatonin and serotonin. Research has shown that boosting serotonin levels can help promote sleep. Somer recommends any cereal with 100 percent whole grain, but says to avoid adding milk, because the protein in the dairy will block tryptophan from entering the brain. Try snacking on a handful of whole wheat cereal at night to avoid the spike in blood sugar that you might get if you ate a sugary cereal.