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Foods to help you sleep?

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).

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  1. Good Scotch, old and single malt.

    It's not alcohol- it's magic.

    3 Replies
    1. re: biggreenmatt

      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

        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



        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. 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

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

          1. re: ipsedixit

            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:


            maybe that will help?

            Good luck

          1. re: Fowler

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

            1. re: ipsedixit

              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

                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

                  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

                I prefer the insane dreams that come with blue cheese.

                1. re: kengk

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

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    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

                      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. Chai masala.

                Indian take-out.

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


                Rice pudding.

                1 Reply
                1. re: prima

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

                2. 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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            Yup on mag. It helps relax tense muscles.

                            1. re: bulavinaka

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

                              1. re: ipsedixit

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

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  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

                          Nothing wrong with placebos...

                          Actually, everything's *right* with them.

                          1. re: latindancer


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

                            1. re: latindancer

                              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

                                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


                            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

                              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

                              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

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

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

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Vidute

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                      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. Warm milk, a banana and a hot bath.

                                    1. 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

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

                                      2. Press two Xanax into a slice of key lime pie.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: beevod

                                          I like your no-nonsense approach.

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

                                            1. 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. 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.


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  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. Chamomille tea usually does the trick.

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

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

                                                      1. 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. 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

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

                                                            1. 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. 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. 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. 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

                                                                      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

                                                                        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

                                                                          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

                                                                            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

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

                                                                        3. 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.