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.

1. Walnuts
Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin, the “body clock” hormone that sets 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.

Walnuts are just one nutrition superstar that can lower blood sugar, burn fat and reduce inflammation. Take a look at 14 other superfoods perfect for those suffering from diabetes.

2. Almonds
Almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep (and for building bones).

A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that when the body’s magnesium levels are too low, it makes it harder to stay asleep. 

Snacking on almonds is a great way to keep you feeling sated as part of a low GI meal plan.

3. Cheese and crackers
Old wives’ tales suggest that warm milk can make you sleepy, but the truth is most dairy products are foods that help you sleep.

Calcium (found in cheese, yoghurt and milk) helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture sleep-triggering melatonin. 

Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements.

Just keep an eye on your dairy intake. Managing your dairy intake is a critical part of some diets featured in these 8 month-long weight loss challenges.

4. Lettuce
A salad with dinner could speed up your bedtime since lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and affects the brain similarly to opium.

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. 

Wrapping your food in lettuce leaves is just one awesome low carb dieting tip. Check out these other 14 ideas.

5. Pretzels
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.

Normally, you want steady levels to avoid mood swings and insulin resistance. (In those cases, take a look at these five shopping hacks for foods low on the glycaemic index.)

But if you are looking to get rest, the blood sugar and insulin increase helps tryptophan enter your brain to bring on sleep.

Snacking on pretzels has been named as one of the 8 ways to de-stress while travelling.

6. Tuna
Fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make melatonin and serotonin.

Other foods that help you sleep thanks to high B6 levels include raw garlic and pistachio nuts.

There's no better way to enjoy tuna than in sushi

7. Rice
White rice has a high glycemic index, so eating it will significantly slash the time it takes you to fall asleep, according to an Australian study.

In particular, jasmine rice brings on shut-eye faster; research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a meal that included jasmine rice fell asleep faster than when they ate other rice types.

Rice is a delicious, versatile alternative to potatoes and pasta, and there are lots of varieties to choose from. Here's a guide to the different types.

8. Cherry Juice
A glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster, according to researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester.

Cherries, particularly 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. 

Cherries out of season? Boost relaxation and beat insomnia by soothing your mind and body before bed by trying these four easy yoga poses.

9. Cereal
A bowl of your favourite flakes before bed could help you get better sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The snack combines two components for getting some Zzzs: carbohydrates (from the cereal) and calcium (from the milk).

Just keep an eye on the amount of sugar already in the cereal and the amount of sugar you pop on your cereal

10. Chamomile tea
Steeping a cup of stress-busting chamomile tea will help you sleep.

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. 

11. Passionfruit Tea
An Australian study found that drinking a cup of passionfruit tea one hour before bed helped people sleep more soundly.

Researchers believe that Harman alkaloids - chemicals found in high levels in the flower - act on your nervous system to make you tired. 

12. Honey
The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily, according to nutritionist Lindsey Duncan on DrOz.com.

A spoonful before bed or mixed with chamomile tea could give you a more restful sleep. 

13. Kale
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.

14. Shrimp and Lobster
Another good source of tryptophan, crustaceans like shrimp (which is one of 13 superfoods every woman should eat) or lobster may bring on an easier sleep.

15. Hummus
Chickpeas are also a good source of tryptophan, so a light lunch of hummus and whole-grain crackers (to help the tryptophan reach the brain), could be a good way to head into an afternoon nap.

16. Elk
This game meat has nearly twice more tryptophan than 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.

This article appeared on Reader's Digest