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These foods and practices can help you get better sleep

HOUSTON – Experts recommend you stop consuming caffeine after 2 p.m. and start eating these things to help your busy brain relax.

Melatonin

You may know that taking a little melatonin can help you drift off to sleep, but Erin Gussler, director of nutrition and wellness programs from the Whole Health Center, recommends taking it sparingly, for instance when you travel.

She says long-term use can have the opposite effect.

“What's interesting about melatonin supplements is that the more you take supplementally, the less your body thinks it needs to produce,” Gussler said.

Turkey

Instead, she recommends encouraging your body to make melatonin through diet. To do that, you should know melatonin comes from serotonin and serotonin comes from tryptophan. Remember, tryptophan is what makes you feel sleepy after Thanksgiving.

“So actually, eating turkey for breakfast or lunch, you get that nice dose of tryptophan which then as the day progresses you convert it to serotonin and then melatonin and you get that nice sleep at night,” Gussler said.

No salty foods or alcohol

Salty foods for dinner may lead to thirst in the early morning hours. Gussler recommends drinking water a couple of hours before bed to hydrate you.

Keep in mind, alcoholic drinks can dehydrate and, contrary to popular belief, they will not help you sleep.

“It actually can drop your blood sugars at night and it prevents you from getting into a deep, restful sleep, so even though you fall asleep quickly, you won't stay asleep and it's not a restorative sleep,” she said.

Magnesium

The most important sleep support your body needs is magnesium.

Foods with magnesium include: figs, sweet potatoes, prunes, almonds and dark chocolate.

Remember dark chocolate also has a small bit of caffeine, so Gussler recommends eating it at least an hour before bed.

Tart Cherry Juice

“So there's a lot of studies that support tart cherry juice helps to produce melatonin,” Gussler said. “I usually recommend about 1 to 4 ounces about 30 minutes before bed and that actually will help produce that nice sleep hormone so you can drift off to dreamland.”

She recommends mixing 100 percent tart cherry juice with sparkling mineral water like Topo Chico, which also contains magnesium.

Golden Milk

“Something called golden milk… it has a lot of Indian spices and flavors, it's really common in the Indian cuisine and it's got turmeric which is anti-inflammatory, so if you have aches or pains before going to bed or if aches or pains are waking you up, it's a good way to calm inflammation," Gussler said. "It's a good way to quiet the mind, calm the mind, as well. So lots of good stuff in there.”