After a crummy night of sleep, most people play the blame game, pointing fingers at work stress, the blue light from their devices, or their bedmates tossing, turning, or wagging. But there’s another common disruptor of Zzz’s most sleep deprived folks don’t think of: their dinner or late-night snack.
As it turns out, what you choose to snack on before bedtime can play a big role in how well you hit the hay.
“Some foods are downright energizing, and others can aggravate conditions like heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux,” explains Lisa Richards CNC, nutritionist and founder of The Candida Diet. Eating these foods around bedtime will make falling (and staying!) asleep difficult, she says. If you can’t sleep and can’t figure out why, cutting out sneaky foods that ruin a restorative night’s rest can help.
Good news: Not all foods ruin your chances of shut eye. Some nocturnal noshes actually double as sleep aids, according to Richards. Certain foods can help you sleep—they have a calming, sleep-inducing effect on the body that makes falling asleep easier, she says.
Of course, avoiding some eats and chowing down others can’t cure insomnia or quiet a teething baby. Still, adjusting your food intake before bed can’t hurt. Scroll down for a list of 20 that may help you ease into dream-land—and 20 foods that’ll ruin good sleep faster than you can say “heartburn.”
FIRST… THE BEST
A popular garnish on meats and fishes (especially in France!), tarragon is as medicinal as it is flavorful. “Tarragon has been used as a remedy for poor sleep quality,” explains integrative health practitioner Kristin Grayce McGary LAc., MAc., author of Holistic Keto for Gut Health: A Program for Resetting your Metabolism. The spring herb also antioxidant properties, supports digestion, and is a good source of potassium, she says.
Your move: purchase either fresh tarragon (which FYI can last in the fridge about 4 days) or dried tarragon. Then, either make this Whole30 Butternut Squash, Fennel, and Tarragon Hash, this Creamy Mushroom, Chicken, and Tarragon Soup, or sprinkle the herb on a slab of salmon, chicken, veal, or whatever your meat of choice is.2
Sleeping poorly? That’s no excuse to cut out kale. “You SHOULD be eating dark leafy greens with dinner,” says celebrity nutritionist Dr. Daryl Gioffre (who has worked with Kelly Ripa). “They’ll give you plenty of fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics, which help keep your colon clean.” And, like spinach, kale is packed with calcium, which helps your body produce sleep-inducing melatonin, he says.
If you have the option between sauteing the chewy green and eating it raw, Dr. Gioffre recommends opting raw, because the heat may reduce the food’s vitamin C contents.
One caveat: Because leafy greens are so full of slow-digesting fiber, he recommends giving the leaves about three hours to move through your system before shutting your eyes. So, avoid kale on the nights when you plan to snooze immediately after snacking.3
Chicken Noodle Soup
The ultimate comfort food, the fact that chicken noodle soup is soothing is exactly what makes it such a good bedtime snack. “Foods that are comforting (such as chicken soup) can help your nervous system to power down and relax to give your whole body a sense of safety,” says acupuncturist and Chinese medicine specialist Tsao-Lin Moy. Plus, soup is easy for the body to digest, he says, so you won’t be kept up with indigestion. If you’re going the store-bought route, opt for a lower-sodium option. Too much salt can keep you wide awake.
Try our chicken noodle soup recipe, or pick up one of the best-tasting canned options (according to our taste test).4
So long as they’re not in french fry form, sweet potatoes can help you sleep better! Registered dietitian Lisa Mastela, MPH, RD, founder and CEO of Bumpin Blends explains: “Sweet potatoes contain B6 which boosts mood and melatonin which prepares for sleep, so eating sweet potatoes help you feel both relaxed and sleepy.” Plus, the veggie is fiberlicious, so you don’t have to worry about waking up hungry in the middle of the night. How’s that for a win-win-win?