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5 Foods That Help You Sleep Better

5 Foods That Help You Sleep Better

Here's an important strategy to live younger and longer: Get enough sleep. Insomnia -- or even just getting less than 6 hours of good sleep a night -- increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and viral infections, but snoozing 6½ to 7½ hours can make your RealAge younger.

Did you know humans die earlier without sleep than they do without food? Fortunately, food could be the solution to your sleep problems. A couple of hours before bedtime, curl up with one of the following sleepy-time snacks that get your brain to release sleep-friendly chemicals.

  1. Almonds: A handful contains muscle-relaxing magnesium and sleep-inducing tryptophan, which increases the brain's level of feel-good serotonin. They’re one of the healthiest foods that help you sleep better.
  2. Bananas: Beneath the peel is a trifecta of soothers: serotonin, magnesium, and melatonin, your body's natural sleep regulator. (Here's another health benefit of sleep.)
  3. Skim milk: Mom was right -- a warm glassful will help you sleep better. The milk's tryptophan has a sedating effect. Plus, the calcium helps your brain use that tryptophan.
  4. Oatmeal: Oats are rich in sleep-regulating melatonin. If you drizzle just a little honey on top, it tells your brain to turn off orexin, a neuropeptide linked to alertness.
  5. Whole-wheat bread: A slice of toast dotted with banana slices releases insulin, which helps tryptophan get to your brain. There it changes into serotonin and whispers, "Sweet dreams."

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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