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16 Bedtime Snacks That Will Help You Sleep Better

Many foods contain naturally occurring substances that bring on sleep. Here are some of the best choices to help you settle down for a quality rest.

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Walnuts shelled and unshelled on a wooden tableXan/Shutterstock


Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin, the “body clock” hormones that set your sleep-wake cycles. Additionally, University of Texas researchers found that walnuts contain their own source of melatonin, unlike other foods that help you sleep, which may help you fall asleep even faster. Here are some other health benefits of walnuts (that won’t put you to sleep).

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Almonds in a bowl on a tableSea Wave/Shutterstock


Almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep (and for building bones). Adults who took a magnesium supplement before bed reported being able to fall asleep faster, getting more quality sleep at night, and being able to wake up on time more easily, according to a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. But you don’t need to take a pill—almonds are a delicious source of magnesium. Don’t miss these other 10 natural tricks for sleeping better without drugs.

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varieties of cheese with crackers, honey, and grapesEugenia Lucasenco/Shutterstock

Cheese and crackers

Old wives’ tales suggest that warm milk can make you sleepy but it turns out there’s science to back this up. Studies have found that many dairy products can help you sleep. Calcium, found in cheese, yogurt, and milk, helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture sleep-triggering melatonin. Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements which means fewer sleep-busters like cramps or restless legs.

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Lettuce on a wooden tableBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock


A salad with dinner could speed up your bedtime. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties, according to a study published in Food Science and Biotechnology. Romaine lettuce has the highest content of this compound, making it ideal for sleep. If you don’t feel like noshing on a head of lettuce, you can try this brew from the book Stealth Health: Simmer three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint, and sip just before you go to bed. (Check out these other 13 best tips from sleep doctors.)

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Pretzels in a glass bowl on a tableOksana Mizina/Shutterstock


Foods like pretzels and corn chips have a high glycemic index. After eating them, you’ll have a natural spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels, shortening the time it takes you to fall asleep, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Normally, you want steady levels to avoid mood swings and insulin resistance. (In those cases, reach for one of these 10 delicious low-glycemic snacks.) But if you are looking to get rest, the blood sugar and insulin increase helps tryptophan enter your brain to bring on sleep.

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Tuna slices with saladAS Food studio/Shutterstock


Vitamin b6 is the sleep vitamin, as your body needs it to make melatonin and serotonin. Not only does it help you fall asleep faster but it may also give you more vivid, lucid dreams, according to a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills. Fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon are high in vitamin B6, as are raw garlic and pistachio nuts.

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Rice varieties in bowlsPrasit jamkajornkiat/Shutterstock


White rice has a high glycemic index, so eating it will significantly slash the time it takes you to fall asleep, according to the AJCN study. Jasmine rice had the most sleep-enhancing properties according to the researchers. Check out these other 11 weird tricks that help you sleep better.

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whole cherries on table and with seltzerShaiith/Shutterstock

Cherry juice

A glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster, according to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Tart cherries naturally boost levels of melatonin. In the study, subjects who drank cherry juice experienced some improvement in their insomnia symptoms compared to those who drank a placebo beverage. Check out these bizarre insomnia cures that people have used throughout history.

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Cereal flakes in a white bowl on a blue tableAleksandrova Karina/Shutterstock


A bowl of your favorite flakes before bed could help you get better sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The combination of the carbohydrates (from the cereal) and calcium (from the milk) work together to send you to Sleepytown. Here are 8 more little daytime tweaks to help you sleep better tonight.

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Chamomile blossoms on a table and floating in teaMarina Shanti/Shutterstock

Chamomile tea

Sipping a cup of stress-busting chamomile tea will help you sleep better, according to a study published in the Molecular Medicine Report. According to researchers, drinking the tea is associated with an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts as a mild sedative. Here are 9 more drinks that help you sleep—and 4 that keep you awake.

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Passion tea herbs scattered on a tray and in tea cupsFoxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock

Passionfruit tea

Chamomile isn’t the only herbal tea that will help you sleep. Drinking a cup of passion fruit tea one hour before bed improved sleep quality according to a study published in Phytotherapy Research. Researchers believe that Harman alkaloids—chemicals found in high levels in the flower—act on your nervous system to make you tired. Don’t miss these other 11 home remedies for insomnia.

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Honey in a tray and honey combAfrica Studio/Shutterstock


Sweet, sticky honey, on its own or mixed into herbal tea, may be the perfect bedtime treat, according to researchers. Not only do the carbs help you fall asleep quicker but honey can also quiet a cough, helping you to sleep more soundly even when you’re sick, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Just make sure to stop these 12 innocent habits that ruin your sleep quality.

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Kale in a bowl and scattered on a slate tableVICUSCHKA/Shutterstock


Green leafy vegetables like kale are loaded with calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Spinach and mustard greens are other good options. Blend them into a smoothie for a soothing and healthy bedtime snack.

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Lobster and shrimp and lemon wedgesAlexander Raths/Shutterstock

Shrimp and lobster

Shellfish and crustaceans, like lobster and shrimp, are another good source of tryptophan, which improves sleep. People who eat seafood at least once a week not only reported better sleep but had better cognitive functioning the following morning, according to a study published in Nature. Just one reason why seafood is one of the 13 superfoods every woman should eat.

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Hummus in a bowl with rosemary and pitaSebastiana/Shutterstock


Beans, including chickpeas and red beans, can improve your sleep, according to a study published by the American Society of Agronomy. They are high in fiber which will help keep you full and are also a good source of tryptophan. So swap out that milk and cookies for some hummus and whole-grain crackers. Don’t miss these other 11 tricks for a more restful nap.

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Elk steaks with rosemarySea Wave/Shutterstock


Elk meat has nearly twice the tryptophan as turkey breast, meaning you’re much more likely to nod off after eating it, especially with a side of carbohydrates to help the tryptophan reach the brain. Don’t miss these 22 sleeping mistakes that are messing with your rest.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Alyssa Jung
Alyssa Jung is a writer and editor with extensive experience creating health and wellness content that resonates with readers. She freelanced for local publications in Upstate New York and spent three years as a newspaper reporter before moving to New York City to pursue a career in magazines. She is currently Senior Associate Editor at Prevention magazine and a contributor to Previously she worked at Reader's Digest as an editor, writer, and health fact checker.