Sleep Myths: How to Eat for a Good Night's Sleep

Your eating habits could be affecting your zzzz's.

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Nighttime Do's and Don'ts

Are you always tired? Your food choices and eating habits can have a huge impact on your sleep quality. But there's a lot of misinformation out there. We investigated some of the most-popular myths about bedtime so you can get a better sleep tonight.

Myth: Warm Milk

TRUE: Mom was right, again. Drinking a glass of milk before bed may, in fact, help you get a more restful sleep. According to registered dietitian Karman Meyer, RD, LDN, author of upcoming book, Eat to Sleep (May 2019), milk before bed can do the body good for lots of reasons. "The calcium, magnesium and potassium in dairy foods help promote muscle and nerve relaxation, just what our bodies need when trying to drift off to sleep. Magnesium also plays a role in decreasing stress levels and inflammation in the body," says Meyer.

Myth: Eat Yogurt

TRUE: If milk isn’t your thing, try some yogurt. The amino acid tryptophan found in yogurt is converted to serotonin and then melatonin, a naturally produced hormone that helps you nod off.

Myth: Go to Bed Hungry

FALSE: Ever go to bed hungry and wake up feeling full? Well, there’s a reason for that. Your body releases glycogen from the liver while you’re asleep to help maintain your blood sugar levels overnight. To help prevent dramatic drops in blood sugar, which can cause restless sleep, help out this system by having a light, sensible snack before bed. Meyer suggests healthy combos like cottage cheese with cherries, a banana with peanut butter, or a glass of milk with almonds.

Myth: Go to Bed Full

FALSE: On the flip side, going to bed right after eating a big meal isn't a good idea either. Eating unusually late and feeling uncomfortably full can negatively impact your body’s normal circadian rhythm, leading to sleep disruption. If you are prone to heartburn this is also a no-no as lying down before food is digested can almost certainly cause discomfort.

Myth: Pop a Magnesium Supplement

FALSE: Not getting enough magnesium can negatively impact sleep, but since it’s widely available in both plant- and animal-based foods like leafy greens, legumes, nuts, meat and fish chances are you already get plenty from your diet. Consuming too much magnesium from supplement may cause stomach upset and, in large doses, heart issues.

Myth: Sip Herbal Tea

TRUE: Decaf teas with herbs like chamomile and lavender won’t give you a caffeine buzz and may help you unwind, relax and fall off to sleep.

Myth: Take a Melatonin Supplement

DRAW: Research is mixed on whether or not melatonin supplements have the desired effect on sleep. Since many dietary supplements are not properly vetted by the FDA, check products carefully and consider talking with your doctor or a registered dietitian before taking a melatonin supplement.

Myth: Drink Alcohol

FALSE: Meyer hates to break it to us, but "sadly, having a glass of wine at night can’t help you get a better night of sleep. While alcohol may help the body to relax, it can interfere with entering the deep stages of sleep, which is where our bodies and minds do very important restoration." That glass of wine during or after dinner may be the reason you're tossing and turning during the night.

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