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Eat (and Drink) Your Way to More Soundful Sleep

Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/aliedwards/">Ali Edwards</a>/Flickr/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons</a>

Can't sleep? Grandmotherly wisdom suggested we have a glass of warm milk at night to settle the tummy and drift off to sleep, but this old wives' tale is more psychology than science. Though anecdotal evidence claims the tryptophan in milk induces sleep, the truth is that a glass before bed merely has mind-soothing effects, like a cozy security blanket.

But there are certain drinks and foods that will lull you to sleep, and there's proven science to back them up.

The next time you find yourself tossing and turning, try these home remedies for more soundful sleep. If you're prone to insomnia that no amount of counting sheep will cure, eat (or drink) one of these sleep-inducing foods a couple of hours before bedtime.

1. Cherries
Cherries are chock full of melatonin, a chemical that helps regulate our circadian rhythms. They're a natural source of melatonin (so you don't need to pop synthetic melatonin capsules if you're a chronic insomniac) and not only help you fall asleep faster, but stay asleep longer too. If fresh cherries can't be had, drink a glass of tart cherry juice to take advantage of its sleep-inducing benefits.

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2. Bananas
These fruits are a good source of magnesium and potassium, which are natural muscle relaxants. They also boost melatonin levels (like cherries do) and have the added benefit of lowering blood pressure while you sleep.

3. Almonds
Almonds are a great source of protein, and protein-rich foods promote sleep and prevent acid reflux. The magnesium content in almonds also helps your muscles relax. Snack on a handful of nuts before bed, drink a glass of unsweetened almond milk, or smear some almond butter on toast to help you wind down.

4. Whole-grain toast
Complex carbohydrates like bread trigger insulin production, which in turn speeds up the production of melatonin and serotonin, two brain chemicals that send you to sleep. So if you really can't catch your zzz's, make it a triple whammy with a sliced banana and almond butter on toast.

5. Oatmeal
Like whole-grain toast, a bowl of oatmeal before bed boosts your blood sugar, which triggers insulin production and sets off the release of sleep-inducing chemicals. Avoid instant oatmeal packets, which are full of sugar, and opt for plain oatmeal with a few slices of banana or a handful of dried cherries on top.

6. Jasmine rice
Studies have found that jasmine rice, above all other rice, helps people fall asleep faster. The secret is in its high glycemic index, which helps the body produce more tryptophan (a sleep-inducing amino acid).

7. Green tea
Green tea contains theanine, a snooze-inducing amino acid. Just make sure it's decaffeinated, or make yourself a pot of caffeine-free herbal tea like chamomile or lemon balm, which has calming effects on the mind. Sometimes, just the ritual of brewing tea will make you more at ease and ready to turn in for the night.

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