HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
What's your latest food project? Get great advice
TELL US

Foods to help you sleep?

ipsedixit Jan 23, 2013 08:35 PM

No, I'm not talking about stuffing yourself into a food coma, or the oft-mentioned Tryptophan.

Rather, I'm thinking about foods that tend to have a soothing, relaxing effect on you (other than alcohol).

Anything you like to eat or drink that puts you in the mood to hit the sack (Platonically, of course).

  1. biggreenmatt Jan 23, 2013 08:51 PM

    Good Scotch, old and single malt.

    It's not alcohol- it's magic.

    3 Replies
    1. re: biggreenmatt
      ipsedixit Jan 23, 2013 09:03 PM

      Well, you're preaching to the choir on that one. Love me some Talisker 18, or a Highland Park 30 if I really had an itch to scratch.

      1. re: ipsedixit
        r
        realtorav8tor Jan 27, 2013 07:28 PM

        I am having a MaCallan 18 right now. I have some 12 as a back up. I like the Highland Park and Lagavullen but have to be in the mood for all that peat.

      2. re: biggreenmatt
        m
        mugen Jan 25, 2013 09:51 PM

        Appositely,

        http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_release...

        A review of all studies involving normal volunteers has clarified that alcohol shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, increases deep sleep, and reduces REM sleep.

      3. d
        darrentran87 Jan 23, 2013 09:24 PM

        It's hard to differentiate if this is normally the food itself or the food coma... but for some reason I feel I get tired after a big, juicy steak (but I REALLLLLY think this is food coma induced). Pho and it's MSG actually gets me sleepy too, though this also might be MSG induced.

        Can't really say anything else really puts me to sleep. Why not just dinner with a nice glass of wine? Or even a snack and a glass of wine?

        2 Replies
        1. re: darrentran87
          ipsedixit Jan 23, 2013 09:29 PM

          Dinner and wine just doesn't do it for me. I'm one of those people that have trouble falling asleep ...

          1. re: ipsedixit
            d
            darrentran87 Jan 23, 2013 10:44 PM

            In that case, perhaps something warm and "comforting"... ie comfort foods (chili, chicken noodle soup, a squash soup?)?

            I googled "serotinin" and got this site:

            http://www.livestrong.com/article/294...

            maybe that will help?

            Good luck

        2. Fowler Jan 23, 2013 09:28 PM

          A very well aged cheddar.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Fowler
            ipsedixit Jan 23, 2013 09:31 PM

            You'll find as much cheese in my house as you will Groupon coupon codes for the iPhone 5.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              Fowler Jan 23, 2013 09:39 PM

              I have never used a Groupon, Groupon code or an iPhone 5 so your response regarding how cheese relates to those items perplexes me.

              1. re: Fowler
                ipsedixit Jan 23, 2013 09:42 PM

                It's my way of saying I don't eat or like cheese, with a poor attempt at humor mixed into it. Sorry.

                1. re: Fowler
                  Tripeler Jan 27, 2013 12:48 AM

                  I think the Groupon outfit deliberately chose that name because it sounds like a contraction of Grey Poupon. Also, once you do an e-mail with Groupon they will infest your Inbox forever and ever.

              2. re: Fowler
                k
                kengk Jan 26, 2013 09:59 AM

                I prefer the insane dreams that come with blue cheese.

                1. re: kengk
                  EWSflash Jan 26, 2013 12:23 PM

                  Aha- you may have just solved a mystery for me.

                  1. re: EWSflash
                    j
                    James Cristinian Feb 12, 2013 07:24 AM

                    I thought my crazy dreams came from all the LSD and mescaline I took as a youngster. Could they be food related?

                    1. re: James Cristinian
                      k
                      kengk Feb 13, 2013 08:05 AM

                      I'm a firm believer in the cheesy dream theory. Eat a big hunk of some blue cheese close to bed time one night...

              3. prima Jan 23, 2013 09:35 PM

                Chai masala.

                Indian take-out.

                Any big Chinese meal, dine-in or take-out, makes me sleepy, and sometimes triggers a food coma.

                Pizza.

                Lasagna.
                Rice pudding.

                1 Reply
                1. re: prima
                  hyacinthgirl Jan 28, 2013 08:35 AM

                  Indian take-out, seconded. Chicken tikka masala and some naan and I just want to pass out.

                2. LMAshton Jan 23, 2013 09:48 PM

                  Bananas.

                  The husband and I have been experimenting with bananas the last week or so. We sleep better when we eat a banana an hour or so before bedtime.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: LMAshton
                    m
                    mugen Jan 25, 2013 09:58 PM

                    To the extent that there has been any real change in your sleep, it's pure placebo. The tryptophan in bananas is minimal, there's limited (if any) evidence that dietary levels affect blood serum levels of tryptophan, it then it has to be metabolised (via 5-HTP) to serotonin before there might be any conceivable effect, and serotonin either has no effect on sleep, or does so only in serotonin-deficient individuals.

                    1. re: mugen
                      LMAshton Jan 25, 2013 11:57 PM

                      Right. Because a. tryptophan is the only thing possible to help a person sleep. b. you're an expert on what is real or not with my sleep.

                      1. re: LMAshton
                        m
                        mugen Jan 26, 2013 01:52 AM

                        Oh sorry - I was discounting the effect of the 0.5% magic pixie dust content in the bananas.

                        Facts: who needs 'em?

                        1. re: mugen
                          goodhealthgourmet Jan 26, 2013 03:36 PM

                          Bananas are a good source of magnesium, which is also important for sleep regulation. In fact, chronic insomnia is one of the primary symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                            b
                            bulavinaka Jan 27, 2013 08:06 PM

                            Yup on mag. It helps relax tense muscles.

                            1. re: bulavinaka
                              ipsedixit Jan 27, 2013 08:36 PM

                              Too bad the mind isn't a muscle. I seem to have an over active, albeit a tiny and underdeveloped, one.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                b
                                bulavinaka Jan 27, 2013 11:22 PM

                                Shiiiiiit! You 'da MENSAMAN - your rolling pin doubles as a slide rule...

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  goodhealthgourmet Jan 28, 2013 08:25 AM

                                  It's not the size that matters ipse, it's how you use it.

                                  Magnesium does more than relax muscles. It also improves neural plasticity and helps regulate neurotransmitter function and electrical activity in the brain.

                        2. re: mugen
                          l
                          latindancer Jan 26, 2013 09:22 AM

                          Nothing wrong with placebos...

                          Actually, everything's *right* with them.

                          1. re: latindancer
                            ipsedixit Jan 26, 2013 12:04 PM

                            +1

                            I wish they would bottle "placebo effect" so that I can buy some and take it on demand.

                            1. re: latindancer
                              m
                              mugen Jan 26, 2013 01:21 PM

                              Agreed - my problem is with stubborn, wishful ignorance - and my spidey-sense told me that I'd receive that reaction before I posted.

                              1. re: mugen
                                l
                                latindancer Jan 26, 2013 03:19 PM

                                Is there something wrong with allowing a person to *believe* what they're doing to sleep is okay?
                                My line of thinking is simple. Whether it's right or wrong, according to studies, a woman or man whose seratonin levels decrease as we age (pretty solid evidence to be correct) should be able to find comfort in the foods they 'think' help us sleep.
                                Complex carbohydrates, one of them being bananas, when eaten with dairy, will actually stimulate the release of insulin which makes it alot easier for the tryptophan in my milk to work. I think I'm more apt to listen to advice from a doctor with a degree in psychiatry, who specializes in pharmacology and nutrition & who has a clear understanding of their patient who can't sleep.

                          2. re: LMAshton
                            Fowler Jan 26, 2013 09:42 AM

                            LMAshton,

                            I am a long distance runner and when I first really started getting into the sport I had terrible lower leg cramps that kept me awake at night. Someone suggested I start eating bananas (maybe for the potassium?). So on the days I would run I ate one after dinner. Sure enough, no more leg cramps and that definitely helped me sleep better.

                            1. re: Fowler
                              512window Jan 26, 2013 02:39 PM

                              I had bad leg cramps during both of my pregnancies and the doctor suggested eating bananas to help. Didn't much but it was something to try.

                              For the OP, no magic foods to suggest. I use melatonin when I travel east and have to get up and be brilliant the next day. Herbal tea sipped after taking the melatonin can help to relax.

                            2. re: LMAshton
                              e
                              eepi Jan 26, 2013 10:44 AM

                              Might be the magnesium content in the bananas. Google brings up a Livestrong site article on this, complete with references. http://www.livestrong.com/article/534... Who knew that "magic pixie dust" was actually magnesium... ;)

                              1. re: eepi
                                m
                                mugen Jan 26, 2013 01:21 PM

                                The first study is irrelevant: it relates to those with restless leg syndrome.

                                The second combined magnesium with 5mg of melatonin, which confounds any results specific to magnesium.

                                There are a couple of other studies that suggest that magnesium might assist with sleep, but they appear to be qualified by or limited to studies of magnesium-deficiency in the elderly. There is one from 1980 that found improved sleep in infants, but again: the evidence is limited.

                            3. Cheese Boy Jan 23, 2013 10:53 PM

                              Milk and cookies just before bed, or some Sleepytime® Herbal Tea might do it.

                              1. v
                                Vidute Jan 23, 2013 11:14 PM

                                a cup of warm milk mixed with a spoonful of honey.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Vidute
                                  c
                                  calmossimo Jan 26, 2013 12:56 AM

                                  just had a mug of warm whole milk with a spoonful of honey and a splash of orange blossom water. i started feeling drowsy about five minutes after... time for bed!

                                  1. re: calmossimo
                                    v
                                    Vidute Jan 26, 2013 02:03 AM

                                    hmmmmmmmm.... never heard of adding orange blossom water. you've got me thinking, now. how do you think lavendar oil would work?

                                    1. re: Vidute
                                      c
                                      calmossimo Jan 28, 2013 10:45 PM

                                      I've never had lavender oil but it sounds interesting. I'd try it! I got the idea for adding the orange blossom water from an old CH thread, and from an old Kitchn post about something called 'white coffee'. I got a whole bottle that gets used just a few drops at a time, so I've been experimenting with it, mostly in black tea with a bit of honey and milk. I also have rose water but that bottle is depleting even more slowly...

                                      1. re: calmossimo
                                        v
                                        Vidute Jan 28, 2013 10:53 PM

                                        when i get to my organic grocer's this week, i'll pick up a bottle and let you know how hit goes.

                                    2. re: calmossimo
                                      JungMann Jan 30, 2013 07:33 AM

                                      Warm milk with flower water is my standby as well. Usually I will use rose water, occasionally with cardamom or saffron. I don't think the combination stimulates any neurotransmitters so much as the scent of the perfumed milk is soothing and saffron milk is what my dad used to give me when I couldn't sleep.

                                  2. l
                                    latindancer Jan 23, 2013 11:23 PM

                                    Warm milk, a banana and a hot bath.

                                    1. p
                                      Pwmfan Jan 24, 2013 07:15 AM

                                      My ex and I used to refer to our favorite takeout pizza as "natural birth control", referring to the extreme sleepiness that ensued after consuming even moderate portions (perhaps the cheese factor at work?).

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Pwmfan
                                        ipsedixit Jan 24, 2013 07:43 AM

                                        "natural birth control" ... I'm going to have remember that one next time I call for pizza.

                                      2. b
                                        beevod Jan 24, 2013 07:44 AM

                                        Press two Xanax into a slice of key lime pie.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: beevod
                                          EWSflash Jan 26, 2013 12:25 PM

                                          I like your no-nonsense approach.

                                        2. s
                                          selfportrait93 Jan 25, 2013 02:11 PM

                                          I just read this article.
                                          http://bettereats.com/blog/post/6-foo...

                                          1. l
                                            lemons Jan 25, 2013 02:25 PM

                                            Two double (flat-grilled) hamburgers and a real chocolate malt from a local 16-seat spot works better than Halcion, even mid-day.

                                            1. t
                                              tardigrade Jan 25, 2013 06:17 PM

                                              There's something about Indian cuisine that makes me sleepy. I love it, but when I go out for an Indian lunch I make sure it's on a day when I can take a nap in the afternoon.

                                              1. Bill Hunt Jan 25, 2013 09:04 PM

                                                For me, it's turkey (though maybe not allowed in this thread?), and maybe an open-faced turkey sandwich, plus a few glasses of nice Rieslings.

                                                Hunt

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  r
                                                  realtorav8tor Jan 27, 2013 07:38 PM

                                                  Funny that you mention Rieslings, they are kind of out of favour (favor). I have always loved them. Definitely one of the noble grapes. Especially the late harvest plus, like trockenbeerenauslese with botrytis. Cheaper than sauterne and lots of special atributes.

                                                2. iluvcookies Jan 25, 2013 09:28 PM

                                                  Chamomille tea usually does the trick.

                                                  1. l
                                                    liza219 Jan 26, 2013 04:21 AM

                                                    Hot cocoa....heavy on the marshmallows, or blended in.

                                                    1. n
                                                      NE_Elaine Jan 26, 2013 09:10 AM

                                                      Chamomile tea or SleepyTime tea with a little honey will generally do the trick for me.

                                                      1. a
                                                        AllaSiciliana Jan 26, 2013 10:31 AM

                                                        Usually carbs like pasta and potatoes will do it for me. Some carbohydrate-rich foods contain tryptophan which is the precursor to serotonin, as well as phenylalanine and tyrosine which are precursors to dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine both will have a relaxing effect.

                                                        Also, some grains have magnesium, which acts as a mild muscle relaxant.

                                                        I used to eat a lot more of those foods to help me sleep, but I started gaining weight, so I switched to supplements. Now, every night I take melatonin, magnesium bis-glycinate, and zinc magnesium aspartate (known as ZMA). On especially rough nights, I take 5-HTP, which is a serotonin precursor. Also, valerian tea helps.

                                                        I know you were asking about foods, but sometimes it's useful to know what nutrients could be helpful, then you can find foods you like that are high in those nutrients.

                                                        1. EWSflash Jan 26, 2013 12:28 PM

                                                          I have never had trouble falling asleep- ever. In fact, I wish there was something that would keep me awake. Two or three cups of coffee does nothing but make me have to get up a few times during the night. Once the sun goes down it's a fight to stay up, for the most part.
                                                          I must have been a chicken in a previous life.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                                            EWSflash Jan 27, 2013 07:20 PM

                                                            But I took a class at work many years ago, and they taught what was called "One hundred breaths" which had you taking deep breaths (very deep, in fact you should push your stomach out when inhaling to fully fill your lungs, then exhale completely), and deliberately relaxing all your muscles at the same time, and making sure they stayed relaxed. That was probably over 15 years ago, and it's the very best go-to-sleep help I've ever learned. I've never made it to 100, in other words. Very relaxing, very oxygenating.

                                                          2. l
                                                            lolabrw Jan 26, 2013 01:36 PM

                                                            A warm bowl of oatmeal cooked with milk, almonds and diced cherries (fresh or dried), or - a bowl of milk and cereal.

                                                            1. mkmccp Jan 26, 2013 03:26 PM

                                                              Sleepytime Extra Herbal Tea. Seriously this stuff gets you to la la land, no joke. It's a herbal sweetish tasting tea, very chamomile-y but not entirely undrinkable. I do rather enjoy it more knowing that an hour layer I'll be sawing logs. Placebo effect??? Maybe.

                                                              I don't have any on hand but I'm pretty sure there is actually a warning label on it about operating heavy machinery and/or driving. The herbs are listed so allergic/intolerant folk can check to see if its ok to use.

                                                              1. h
                                                                HillJ Jan 27, 2013 07:13 PM

                                                                I don't know why but anything ginger based helps me sleep.
                                                                If I'm way over my days on end without sleep I make sure I'm drinking ginger tea just to keep me leveled out.

                                                                Also, not food related, soaking my feet for 10 mins. in a warm bath helps me sleep.

                                                                1. shaogo Jan 30, 2013 11:21 AM

                                                                  So I'm scrolling down this post and it took quite a few other answers before our good friend Bill Hunt came up with my own knee-jerk answer to this question: turkey!

                                                                  Cream of chicken soup, cream of asparagus soup.

                                                                  Rather than the alcohol (which, however, I've been known to use as a sleep aid) I resort to a mug or two of plain hot water -- no tea (not even chamomile) -- and not hot milk. Hot water. My Taiwanese ex-spouse swears by this.

                                                                  And a dish of mac & cheese. Not pasta with sauce: if I eat garlic before bed-time it keeps me up and gives me strange dreams.

                                                                  1. Jay F Jan 30, 2013 11:38 AM

                                                                    I don't usually eat past 8, but when I do, it's something carb-y rather than protein-y.

                                                                    Given that it's you, how about ice cream? That's one of the only things I eat later at night.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Jay F
                                                                      hyacinthgirl Jan 30, 2013 11:48 AM

                                                                      Lately, my husband has been claiming the sugar in our evening ice cream has been keeping him awake at night :( Luckily, I've seen no such side-effect for me!

                                                                      1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                                                        Jay F Jan 30, 2013 11:51 AM

                                                                        Everyone I know, practically, has your husband's reaction to sugar. Not me. It doesn't elevate my mood or keep me from sleeping.

                                                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                                                          EWSflash Jan 30, 2013 07:17 PM

                                                                          I can vouch for the fact that DH (being of German descent and therefore lactose-sensitive), after eating ice cream after dinner, is one night going to fart and fly out the window. It's the kind of gas that wakes me up with a start from the sheer volume, say, twenty times a night after he eats ice cream. Ice cream before bed is a family comfort thing with him, not so much with me, obviously.
                                                                          I doubt if it's the sugar, hyacinthgirl, because that connection has pretty much been debunked by the scientific community.

                                                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                                                            ipsedixit Jan 30, 2013 08:35 PM

                                                                            If you still share a bedroom, much less the same bed, with your DH after an ice cream indulgence then you certainly have found true love.

                                                                        2. re: Jay F
                                                                          ipsedixit Jan 30, 2013 06:53 PM

                                                                          Actually, ice cream doesn't do anything for me (in terms drowsiness).

                                                                        3. jw615 Jan 30, 2013 08:30 PM

                                                                          For me, baked potatoes seem to help perhaps a bit - they make me feel warm and cozy and want to cuddle up with a blanket.

                                                                          But I'm not disillusioned...I know what is really putting me to sleep is the lunesta. But the baked potato is still nice.

                                                                          Show Hidden Posts