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Foods That Make You Sleepy

Stick to these late-night bites, and peaceful slumber will be yours.

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“Figs pack potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “These minerals help with blood flow and muscle contraction, which are key for falling asleep.” Besides crushing your dessert craving, each fig also packs some additional fiber that’ll keep you full.

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It’s all in the name. Each 2-cup serving is half (you guessed it) water, which will hydrate you before bed and eliminate post-dinner hunger pains due to the fiber and volume.

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Sweet Potato Toast

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Pistachios hit the sleep-inducing jackpot, packing in protein, vitamin B6, and magnesium, all of which contribute to better sleep. Refrain from a shell-cracking frenzy, though. “Don’t exceed a 1-ounce portion of nuts,” London warns. “Anything too high in calories can have the reverse effect of keeping you awake!”

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The nutrients in dried plums — vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium, to name a few — help make melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Use prunes as a whole-grain toast topping, mix them into trail mix, or eat them on their own about 30 minutes before bedtime.

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Since dehydration can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep (not to mention your energy levels overall!), choosing watery fruits like melon can make up for any deficits. London also recommends thirst-quenching apples, oranges, and pears.

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String Cheese

Still can’t silence those stomach grumbles? Your kids’ snack stash might come in handy. Part-skim mozzarella cheese (a.k.a. string cheese) provides a satisfying protein, especially if you pair it with whole grain crackers.

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Nut Butter

Almond or peanut butter also pack in filling protein too. Spread it on graham crackers, a banana, or that sweet potato toast. Again, keep your dollop under a tablespoon so you’re not feeling too stuffed before heading to bed.

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Herbal Teas

No surprise here, but herbal tea has tons of snooze-promoting properties. “Chamomile tea is excellent for calming nerves before bedtime,” says London. “It’s also hydrating and stomach-soothing, same as ginger tea.”

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It may be a favorite for breakfast, but you might want to pair a bowl of oatmeal with some coffee to make it through the day. “Grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production much like whole-grain bread,” says Cynthia Pasquella, CCN, CHLC, CWC. “They raise your blood sugar naturally and make you feel sleepy. Oats are also rich in melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps you fall asleep.”

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Just a handful of these and you’ll be dozing off in no time. Pasquella says almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium, which both help to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while also steadying your heart rhythm.

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The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to increase your melatonin intake, recommends Michelle Dudash, a registered dietician. Cherries, along with nuts and oats, are a natural source of melatonin. When eaten regularly, they can help regulate your sleep cycle.

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The battle of the turkey is still being fought today. Some experts say it has no effect on sleep, and the annual Thanksgiving food coma is caused by the amount of food you eat, not the bird itself. But, as Dr. Oz Garcia, MS, PhD says, turkey does have tryptophan in it, which gets metabolized into serotonin and melatonin, two of the main chemicals responsible for your dozing off.

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Dark Chocolate

Don’t worry — you can eat chocolate day and night (whew!). Dark chocolate contains serotonin, which relaxes your body and mind. Not to mention the other health benefits dark chocolate has too.

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The magnesium and potassium in bananas serve as muscle and nerve relaxants. Dudash says that the vitamin B6 found in the fruit also converts tryptophan into serotonin, increasing relaxation even more.

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This Middle Eastern spread is another great source of tryptophan, says Pasquella. “If you’re waking up hungry in the middle of the night, that usually means you’re not getting enough calories during the day,” she says. Eat hummus during the day for better sleep and aim for three small meals overall, plus two snacks if needed.”

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Foods That Keep You Awake

Check the clock before indulging in these favorite treats, or risk tossing and turning all night long.

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Chicken Tenders

No surprise here: Fried foods can sit in your stomach long after you chow down. “Since they take awhile to digest and absorb, they’re prime to give you heartburn if you eat them too close to bed,” London says. Opt for grilled versions, and don’t lay down for at least 30 minutes after your meal to improve digestion.

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Soy Sauce

Hold back on dunking your sushi unless you want to wake up in the middle of the night parched. Just one teaspoon of soy sauce contains more than half of your daily value for sodium, according to London. Choose low-sodium versions and push forward dinnertime to at two hours before bed.

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Minty-fresh candy and gum act as stimulants, not relaxers, so put those sticks away until tomorrow, London advises.

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Don’t swing by the drive-thru if you want to hit the hay early. High-fat foods like burgers and pizza take longer to digest, messing with your sleep.

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Orange Juice

Squeezed citrus, like orange and grapefruit juices, might trigger a nasty case of heartburn, warns London. The acidic foods can cause reflux in some people, so steer clear if you want to rest easy.

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Processed or Smoked Meats

Leave this one on the deli counter. Processed meats contain high levels of sodium, which will have waking you up and reaching for a glass of water. These meats also aren’t the healthiest ones to munch on either, sleep patterns aside.

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Spicy Foods

Those hot wings may taste damn good during the football game, but they aren’t going to feel so great come bedtime — especially if you’re prone to heartburn. Eat your favorite hot foods early enough in the day to prevent a sleepless night later.

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You’ve known this guy for years. He’s gotten you through countless all-nighters and pepped you up for that 8 a.m. Monday morning presentation. But did you know that caffeine isn’t actually giving your body any energy? “Though caffeine does provide us with that feeling of alertness, it’s just a stimulant,” says Dudash.

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Even though it’s a depressant, alcohol will, oddly enough, keep you up at night. “Many people use alcohol to help them relax, but it actually prevents your body from entering the deep stages of sleep,” says Pasquella.

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Tomato-Based Sauces

Have that plate of pasta at least few hours before tucking in at night. Tomato-based foods have a tendency to cause acid reflux and heartburn, which will prevent you from having a good night’s sleep.

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Black Tea

Herbal teas are great for sleeping, but avoid black varieties. It’s another source of caffeine, which can keep you from drifting off.

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Energy Drinks

It’s not just the caffeine in energy drinks that makes you wired, warns Pasquella. Most beverages contain taurine, an amino acid that increases alertness and elevates your heart rate and blood pressure.

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