Can’t sleep? Here’s what you SHOULD be drinking and eating before bed

If you can't sleep it might be what you’re consuming before bed – it's crucial for a good night’s kip. Find out what helps and what hinders a restful night

can't sleep: girl sleeping in bed by getty images
(Image credit: Getty)

We all know how infuriating it is when you can't sleep, especially when we also know that a good eight hours of shut-eye is what many experts recommend. Adequate sleep helps prevent serious illnesses, mental disorders, and extends your lifespan – outcomes you’ll definitely want to embrace. 

Learning how to sleep well is therefore crucial in today’s world, where good quality sleep can often be elusive. Among the keys to a restful and restorative night? What you eat and drink before you tuck yourself in for the duration can contribute to peaceful sleep, or disrupt it.

Of course, your sleep set-up is also high priority, including the bed. Make sure you’re using the best mattress 2020 as well as following our guide to eating and drinking before bed.

The food and drink you should consume to sleep well

Tryptophan-containing food and drink

Did your mum recommend a milky drink before bed? She was wise. When it comes to sleep, dairy foods are your friend as they contain tryptophan, which promotes slumber. There’s one caveat, though. Hot chocolate (see below) likely contains caffeine, so opt for alternatives such as Ovaltine or Horlicks.

If you’re thinking about your evening meal, it helps to know that eggs also contain tryptophan. Other ways to add it? Honey is also a source, and vegans will be delighted to hear that it can be obtained through oats, nuts, seeds and bananas.

Camomile tea

Although this is reputed to aid sleep, evidence isn’t strong. However, it doesn’t contain caffeine, so it can be a sensible choice for your nighttime beverage – providing you don’t brew up too late in the evening (see below).

Carbohydrates

Apologies, those on low carb diets, you are missing out on a key to a better night. We’re talking bread and cheese, maybe, crackers, a few nuts, or even cereal plus milk. Don’t go overboard, though (see below). A snack-size quantity is what you’re aiming for.

Lettuce

Sounds weird, but you may recall Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies’, where an over-indulgence in lettuce saw the rabbits overcome with slumber. We don’t suggest it’ll have such pronounced results for you, but there is some evidence to suggest it might be worth consuming lettuce as part of your evening meal.

The food and drink you should avoid to sleep well

Caffeine-containing drinks

You know to avoid coffee, of course, but don’t forget that stimulating caffeine can lurk in other evening favourites. Tea contains it, as does chocolate, and colas. Cut them out from around six hours before you lie down for the night.

Any fluids after hours

What do we mean by after hours? Think about finishing all you’re going to drink two or three hours before you turn in if you don’t want to be woken by an urge to visit the toilet.

Alcohol

You can call it a nightcap if you like, but that doesn’t mean it will help you sleep for eight hours. Although it might mean you nod off faster, alcohol can cause you to wake during the night. Stop drinking in good time – four hours at least before bed, and better six.

Heavy and spicy meals

Naturally, there are going to be times when you enjoy a feast, but for the benefit of your slumber, plan to eat early enough for a few hours of digestion before your bedtime.

Inclined to get heartburn? Don’t go for super spicy meals at nighttime if you like the idea of a peaceful night.

Find out more about getting great sleep from Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker.