4 Nighttime Snacks to Help You Sleep | Keck Medicine of USC

4 Nighttime Snacks to Help You Sleep

Having trouble nodding off to dreamland? Eating these snacks just before bed can help you get a good night’s rest.

Everyone suffers from lack of sleep at one time or another. But some people can’t seem to catch any Z’s on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep is linked to a host of health problems, such as weight gain and diabetes.

“Treat it like you treat exercise and diet,” said Eric Kezirian, MD, professor of clinical otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a sleep specialist specializing in snoring and sleep apnea at Keck Medicine of USC. “It’s important for your health and for getting the most out of life.”

If you’ve tried everything from meditation to counting sheep to help you fall asleep, consider eating a small bedtime snack. Certain foods trigger sleepiness, and some will even help you get a longer, deeper night’s rest.

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Here are four nighttime snacks that will help you sleep:

1. Walnuts

Walnuts contain melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that controls your body’s internal clock. Normally, the amount of melatonin in your body increases later in the evening, but if your levels are low, eating a handful of walnuts can restore your melatonin supply. About 14 walnut halves (185 calories) eaten before bedtime should be enough to enhance your cycle of sleep.

2. Cherries or cherry juice

Tart, natural cherries also boost melatonin; they are also a carbohydrate-rich snack. Doctors have discovered that carbohydrates help to reset your normal circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour clock in your body, helping you sleep more soundly. One study found that drinking tart cherry juice before bed helped older adults fall asleep easier.

3. Bowl of cereal

Breakfast cereal that contains complex carbohydrates resets your sleep patterns and fills your stomach. Low sugar, whole-grain cereals are also a good source of vitamin B, which may prevent insomnia. Use warm milk for a double dose of sleep-inducing foods.

4. Chamomile tea or green tea

Hot liquids relax the body and mind. Used for centuries as a sleep aid, chamomile is thought to have an anti-anxiety effect, which in turn promotes good sleep. Green tea contains theanine, a relaxing sleep-enhancer. However, green tea also contains caffeine, so in order to promote healthier sleep, look for caffeine-free green tea.

by Heidi Tyline King

Concerned about your sleep habits? The USC Sleep Disorders Center of Keck Medicine of USC offers comprehensive outpatient and inpatient sleep disorder evaluations. If you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting https://keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.