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Can't sleep? Here are foods that can help or hinder your slumber

Your doctor’s appointment didn’t go as well as you hoped today — you’ve gained six pounds. The kids are coming for a visit and they will ALL stay at your house. Your husband is starting a new woodworking project and will be in his shop a lot of the time for the next few weeks.

Life is busy, challenging, even stressful, and you’re not sleeping well. But you don’t want to take sleep medicine and you don’t like warm milk. Here is some advice that can help.


Most of us know about Tryptophan — the component in milk and turkey that makes us sleepy — but did you know that chicken (like turkey), milk, bread, chocolate, tuna fish, cheese and dairy, nuts and seeds, oats (for oatmeal), dried prunes, bananas, apples and eggs contain Tryptophan?


L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps the brain make serotonin, a chemical that helps govern mood, behavior and reasoning, say researchers Dawn M. Richard and her colleagues at the Neurobehavioral Research Laboratory and Clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. In addition, the foods that contain Tryptophan can help you sleep.


Having a small snack at bedtime, especially foods from the list above, can help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Keep your snacks small; large meals close to bedtime can lead to wakefulness or late night trips to the bathroom.


Make sure your bedtime snack is light — no burgers and fries. A heavy meal will activate your digestive system and make you uncomfortable and may cause heartburn. Steer clear of harder-to-digest protein. Eat a bowl of cereal and milk or some bread and cheese; these carbs will help you get to sleep.


Dr. Mehmet Oz notes that you should keep your liquid intake small and try not to drink anything after 8 or 9 p.m. And nix on the caffeine, which means dark colas, regular coffee and chocolate are forbidden. They cause sleep disturbances and caffeine is a bladder irritant.


Skip the nightcap. Your glass of wine or cocktail may make you fall asleep easily, but it may bring restlessness, night sweats, headaches, or even nightmares. And, again, frequent trips to the bathroom.


If you’re a smoker, that relaxing last smoke can keep you awake. According to the National Institutes of Health, smoking can increase your risk of sleep apnea. Also nicotine is a stimulant (like caffeine) and may keep you up. Don’t smoke when you awaken in the night, it will be more difficult to get back to sleep.


A final caution: Some medications may contain caffeine, such as diuretics, cold preparations, weight loss medicines, and many pain meds, according to Medical News Today. Read the labels of over-the-counter preparations or check with your doctor or pharmacist if you can’t find another reason for your poor sleep.


Getting a good night’s sleep is not too difficult if you remember these tips. Of course, you’ll have to figure out WHERE everyone will sleep when the kids come home, but you can help them eat right to sleep well!

Jill Hanika Stout is a freelance writer who lives in North Carolina and is a former Hoosier.


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