The science of a good night’s sleep affects us all. Ironically, some of us stress so much over figuring out the best way to rest that we end up worrying ourselves right into insomnia.
One well-known tip is that if you want a better night’s sleep, don’t eat a large meal right before bed, or eat late at night at all. However, you can’t fall asleep if your stomach is growling, either. Here are the best foods to eat as a small snack before you doze off.
White rice might seem like a weird choice for pre-sleep snacking, but it’s high in carbs and low in fiber, giving it a high glycemic index. That means it can raise your blood sugar quickly, which seems counterintuitive for sleeping, but actually isn’t.
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As long as you don’t eat rice right before bed — rather, a few hours before — that high glycemic index can actually improve sleep quality. Be careful, though, because it doesn’t always work with other high-GI foods, like noodles or bread.
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If your parents read Peter Rabbit to you as a kid, you’ll remember when Peter’s mom gave him a cup of chamomile tea to help soothe him after raiding the farmer’s garden. Chamomile works for humans, too, helping to ease anxiety and depression.
Chamomile also contains the powerful antioxidant apigenin. It attaches to receptors in your brain that make you drowsy and sweep insomnia away, and its calming effects made study participants fall asleep 15 minutes faster than their peers.
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Kiwis don’t contain melatonin or other sleep-inducing chemicals, but they are packed with nutrients. A single kiwi contains 117% of a daily dose of vitamin C and 38% of a day’s worth of vitamin K, as well as folate and potassium.
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Not only that, but kiwis reduce inflammation and balance cholesterol, and at the end of a four-week study, 24 participants who’d been eating two kiwis an hour before bed found that they fell asleep 42% better than when they ate nothing at night.
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You wanna talk about a drink high in benefits? Tart cherry juice is packed with flavonols — the same antioxidants found in red wine — and vitamins A, C, and manganese.
Tart cherry juice also has high levels of melatonin, which gets your body clock on track and helps you fall asleep at the right time. Drinking two glasses of the stuff per day made study participants sleep sounder and an hour longer after two weeks.
We know fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel are good for us because of their omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, but their high vitamin D content makes them surprisingly good for sleep, too.
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When that vitamin D and those fatty acids — DHA and EPA — are combined, they increase your brain’s production of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that helps with sleep by synthesizing melatonin.
Remember apigenin, the calming antioxidant that’s found in chamomile? Passionflower tea is another good place to get apigenin, as well as other flavonoid antioxidants which help to lower inflammation.
This tea from the delicious passionfruit plant is also unique in that it helps your brain produce the neurotransmitter GABA, which is an inhibitory substance that blocks stress-inducing brain chemicals like glutamate and helps induce sleepiness.
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Almonds are a good source of protein that’ll fill you up, but won’t weigh you down. Just one ounce contains plenty of protein, plus a good balance of healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants to rejuvenate your skin.
In addition, almonds are a source for everybody’s favorite sleep hormone, melatonin. They also contain magnesium, a mineral many Americans are deficient in, which helps alleviate and prevent insomnia.
Another lean source of protein is turkey. Just a small amount before bed can improve the quality of your sleep and prevent those sudden jolts from slumber in the middle of the night, keeping you sawing logs peacefully with no interruptions.
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Turkey also is famous for knocking Thanksgiving dinner-eaters out, and while the truth around its amino acid, tryptophan, still remains hazy, there’s no denying that tryptophan helps your body to synthesize melatonin.
Along with almonds, walnuts are another snack to keep the hunger away long enough to get you a good night’s rest. They’re high in the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which your body converts to DHA and uses to make serotonin.
As if that wasn’t enough, walnuts also contain magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese, and are one of the best foods from which to get melatonin. Talk about an efficient snack!
A few others you can try? Oatmeal is high in carbs, and studies showed it made people drowsy when eaten before bed. And warm milk has tryptophan, so try a small glass at night for a well-soothed snooze.
Bananas contain tryptophan, too — not to mention magnesium, which calms and soothes you. Whatever you eat, though, just make sure to do it two to three hours before you sleep, to prevent digestion problems…and weird dreams!
It’s commonly believed that being able to fall asleep anywhere you like signals good sleep health. That’s false! The study found that this is probably a sign that you’re sleep deprived — and have been for a long time. A lot of sleep trends could be harming your health.
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2. Get More Rest: We’ve all met people who boast that they function on 5 hours of sleep per night, but that’s not normal. The vast majority of adults need at least 7 hours to avoid trashing their heart health, metabolism, mental stability, and immune system.
3. Don’t Go Without: You may be used to “working tired,” or functioning on less sleep, but it doesn’t mean your body and brain have adapted to the deficit. Reduced sleep is directly correlated with poorer work performance, slower mental processing, and higher death rate.
4. Elder Snoozing: There’s a belief that adults sleep more as they age, but it’s false. Most older adults get less sleep than younger adults; however, it’s not known if they actually need less sleep.
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5. All About Balance: You may have heard that “more sleep is always better,” but that’s generally only true if you’re recovering from an illness or an all-night study session. People with insomnia who stay in bed longer actually reduce their ability to fall asleep the next night.
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6. Make It Up: In better news, short-term sleep deprivation — only one or two nights — won’t be a long term detriment to your health, as you may have previously heard. A few nights of restful sleep will get you back to normal.
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7. Night Owl: Do you work night shifts and sleep during the day? If so, you’re at a higher risk for depression, diabetes, and cancer. Contrary to the myth that sleep time isn’t important, daytime sleeping is at odds with your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
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8. Stress-free Sleepage: If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t just lay there trying to fall back to sleep — it won’t work, and you’ll stress yourself out. Read a book until you feel drowsy again.
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9. Commit: Do you think lying in bed with your eyes closed is basically a substitute for sleeping? Hah, no. While it might make you calmer, your brain needs to actually go into REM patterns to get you refreshed, and you have to be asleep for that.
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10. Snoring: Loud snoring has been known as an annoyance to fellow bed-sharers, but nothing more. Turns out, loud snoring signals a blockage in the throat, and you may have dangerous sleep apnea. At the very least, you’re not getting enough oxygen while you snooze.
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11. Twister: Another myth is that a sound sleeper doesn’t move during their dreams, but don’t worry too much if you’re a twitcher. Small, infrequent movements during sleep are normal. Thrashing and sleepwalking may be a problem, though.
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12. No Snoozing Allowed: Do you hit snooze five times in the morning because you just want to nab some extra rest? Those nine-minute nap increments aren’t deep sleep, so they won’t help you be less tired. You’re better off getting up and going to bed early the next night.
13. Siestas: Occasional afternoon naps are a good way to get through particularly tough days, but making a habit out of them actually hurts you in the long run. Frequent napping can cause insomnia when you do lie down for the night.
14. No Nightcaps: While drinking alcohol before bed reduces sleep latency, or makes you fall asleep faster, it isn’t a healthy habit. It causes sleep disturbances in the early hours of the morning, when you should be deep in dreamland. It also worsens sleep apnea.
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15. Chill Out: Even though a warm, snuggly bed makes you cozy and sleepy, a warm, toasty bedroom is worse for sleep. The ideal ambient temperature for a good night’s rest is between 65ºF and 70ºF, so when you pile the covers on, turn the thermostat down.
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16. Bored to Sleep: Another myth is that being bored, like sitting in a long meeting or listening to a droning speech, can induce sleep. That’s not true: boredom can reveal underlying sleepiness, but it doesn’t in fact cause you to become sleepy.
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17. TV Light: If you habitually watch TV to help you nod off at night, stop that! TV sets produce blue light, which your brain associates with daylight. While you may fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion, that blue light isn’t good for quality rest.
18. Worn Out: Have you heard that exercise within four hours of your bedtime will hurt sleep quality? The opposite is true: exercise is tied to better sleep, regardless of when in the day it happens. You may even wake up more rested!
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19. Busy Brain: Some believe that your brain isn’t active while you’re in the Land of Nod, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your brainwaves shift during sleep, but eye movements and neurons firing indicate that the ol’ grey matter is still very much busy!
20. Memory: Contrary to a popular myth, remembering what you dreamt doesn’t always mean you slept well. It could mean you were awakened unnaturally during a REM cycle — which is when you dream — instead of gradually waking up on your body’s own time. And sleep isn’t the only health area where you’ve been misled…
Tryptophan: Everyone thinks the reason we get so tired after Thanksgiving dinner is that turkey is loaded with the sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan. Sure, there is tryptophan, but not enough to actually put us to sleep. In fact, cheddar cheese has more of the chemical than turkey does!
2. Gluten: The truth is that most of these people are cutting bread out of their diets for no reason. Doctors suggest that, without a Celiac’s disease diagnosis, those who feel ill are more than likely being triggered by something else they ate.
3. The “five-second” rule: You’ve probably heard that if you pick food up off the ground within five seconds of it landing, it’s still okay to eat. Well, it’s not! It only takes milliseconds for harmful bacteria to infect food.
4. Gum digestion: You’ve probably heard if you swallow gum it will stay in your digestive tract for seven whole years, which is frightening to think about. However, although most of the ingredients in gum are indigestible, it will pass through your body as quickly as anything else you consume.
5. Water consumption: Sure, staying hydrated is important, but doctors say to simply drink water when you’re thirsty; don’t force yourself to drink eight glasses if you don’t feel like you need it.
6. Halitosis: Listerine actually created the term “halitosis” to make people buy more mouthwash. They branded a biological regularity as an embarrassing disease to make sure people never left the house without rinsing first!
7. Sugar addiction: A doctor named Robert Lustig wrote in a 2009 book called “Fat Chance” that sugar stimulated the brain the same way that tobacco, cocaine, and even heroin did. Therefore, it must be as addictive, right? Not at all.
8. Alcohol cures hangovers: Have you ever woken up with a hangover after a wild night and someone told you to drink more alcohol because it will cure it? Nope, drinking more booze will just keep you drunk and delay that hangover.
9. Detox from detox: If you’ve ever spent a week drinking nothing but cabbage soup, then sorry, you deprived yourself of solids for no reason. You can’t detox your body. Your body flushes out “the bad stuff” on its own regularly.
10. Don’t douche: Cleaning out the ol’ lady bits with a spray of water started out as a birth control method, but eventually, it evolved into a part of the hygienic process. It shouldn’t have. Vaginas clean themselves, and using a douche can actually increase the risk of infection.
11. Dangerous fluoride: The government isn’t dumping dangerous amounts of fluoride in the water to poison your body. Truly, you don’t need to listen to pushy water-filter merchants who claim you’ve just got to eliminate the stuff from your drinking water.
12. Myths about depression: A study from John Hopkins reported that a number of people diagnosed with the debilitating disease don’t actually have it. There has been a rise in antidepressant use in America for those who don’t truly need it.
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13. Trypophobia: Does this image terrify you? No? Then you don’t have trypophobia, otherwise known as the irrational fear of random hole clusters. Studies on the alleged phobia have been small and mostly inconclusive.
14. Showering: Research suggests that showering can do more harm than good. You could be killing off healthy skin and those oh-so-important microbes, so if you’re itching to get clean, give your pits a whiff and make sure it’s actually necessary.
15. Drinking milk: The wildly successful “Got Milk?” campaign convinced people their bones would be stronger if they worked milk into their daily diet. However, multiple studies have shown there’s no correlation between drinking the calcium in milk and fewer bone fractures.
16. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS): Sufferers of EHS believe radio signals and WiFi traveling by air are making them intensely ill. However, there is no medical data to support this claim.
17. Buying organic: Many people firmly believe when they consume organic products they’re avoiding all of the pesticides associated with processed food. However, that’s not always the case, as farmers are allowed to use chemicals that are naturally derived.
18. Natural sugar: Is a granola bar that’s made with honey better than one filled with high-fructose corn syrup? It actually isn’t. The word “natural” sounds way better than “processed,” but in fact, sugar in natural products is the same as it’s synthesized counterpart.
19. Balancing your energies: No matter how many fanciful terms a Reiki practitioner uses, he or she cannot crush your negative energy with a few theatrical hand waves.
20. Carrots: Vitamin A is found in high amounts in carrots, and it greatly helps eye health. However, eating tons of carrots won’t give you better vision as some people believe. Keep eating them because they’re healthy, not because they’ll lead to perfect vision.
21. Beavers are nuts: During the Dark Ages, hunters were known to seek out beaver testicles for medical reasons. So, in 1188, when Gerald of Wales claimed beavers would bite off their own genitals if they saw hunters as a “please don’t kill me”offering, people believed it. And that is only the beginning of the Dark Age nonsense.
22. Criminal animals: The scales of justice had no preference for man or beast, apparently, which meant that animals could stand trial for crimes. Less hysterically, in 1266, a pig was tried, sentenced, and burned alive for murder.
23. Weird animal classifications: Scientists of the Dark Ages saw animals a bit differently than we do today. For example, bees weren’t considered insects, but tiny birds. Meanwhile, beavers were thought to be fish because—duh—they swam around and stuff.
24. Animalistic medicine: Many people believed that owls could treat gout. You just had to catch one, kill it, pluck it, burn it, mix its remains with boar fat, and voila—that gout was gout of there.
25. The chicken cure: Medical “experts” had no clue how to treat the plague, and it showed by the sheer number of insane “cures” they proposed. One treatment involved rubbing chickens on the festering plague sores, which wasn’t particularly effective. Go figure.
26. The syphilis cure: For those unlucky enough to catch what playwright Francis Beaumont dubbed “the burning pestle,” there weren’t a ton of treatment options. Worse still, some doctors recommended patients take a swig of mercury—you know, a highly toxic chemical.
27. Trepanning, or putting holes in heads: Have a head full of evil spirits? Maybe some blood built up around your brain from doing Dark Ages stuff? No problem! Doctors had the perfect cure: they’d just cut a little hole in your head with a tool called a trephine.
28. Medicinal smoking: As recently as the 1700s, men, women, and children lit up some tobacco, puffed away, and waited for the awesome plague-defeating benefits to kick in. Rest assured, the plague wasn’t the only health issue these smokers had to worry about…
29. Spooky mandrakes: As you could imagine, a plant with human-looking roots and hallucinogenic properties fueled all sorts of medieval nightmares. Some folks thought the plant killed anyone who harvested it. Others simply used it for black magic.
30. Royal touching: Some medieval people believed that royalty could cure any affliction with just a touch from their fingertips. Likely, this was a rumor started by, naturally, royalty. But hey, it was better than telling people to drink mercury!
31. Belief in the existence of manticores: With a man’s head, a lion’s body, and scorpion’s tail, this mythical chimera created by a Roman historian allegedly spent most of its time eating its prey whole—leaving no bones behind—and shooting its spine like an arrow.
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32. Cynocephalus: Apparently, folks in the Dark Ages were really afraid of humans with animal heads. This was the case with the cynocephalus: a human-bodied monster with a dog head that people believed actually existed.
33. Blemmye: These headless monsters were believed to be a race of people that had faces built right inside their own chests, which must have been a total downer for any of them who wanted to wear a shirt.
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34. Titivillus the Error Demon: Some in the Dark Ages believed that the blame for any scribe’s error—big or small—fell squarely on the shoulders of this Muppet-looking’ monster. The Titivillus ran with a bad crowd (aka Satan), so it made sense he’d do such devilish work.
35. Demon-infested Brussels sprouts: Today, we cook Brussels sprouts in a pool of butter and bacon bits, but in the olden days, people just avoided ’em all together, chalking their aversion up to demons living inside them.
36. Changelings: According to folklore, fairies were kind of mean and would commonly swap human babies for “defunct” Fae babes. The dastardly faeries raised the stolen baby in the super-awesome fairy world, while the humans were left raising a dud.
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37. Spooky teeth: Always looking for the edge in a fight, Vikings wanted to really up their “scare” factor. They would sometimes carve little grooves in their teeth because nothing says scary like teeth liable to break on an overcooked venison leg.
38. Preformationism: This was the belief that sperm carried homunculi, tiny versions of a fully-grown human. It had organs, eyes, a brain—everything a baby had when it was born. In the womb, this little thing just grew from microscopic to baby-sized.
39. Penis pets: If you asked 15th-century witches, penises made great pets. According to the official guide to witches, Malleus Maleficarum, these magic-wielding ladies would create nests of up to 30 shlongs. Like a pet rock, you didn’t have to feed, water, or walk them.
40. Persecuting witches: To determine whether or not someone was a witch, judges used a dunking stool. The contraption lowered her into a river and, if she sank, it proved she wasn’t a witch. It usually killed the lady, but hey, at least you knew she wasn’t evil!
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