You’ve done all the obvious stuff—cut out late-night caffeine, made sure your bedroom is dark and cozy, avoided scary movies or struggling with your to-do list right before bed. So why are you still tossing and turning? “Certain habits you’re unaware of could be sabotaging your sleep,” says Kristen L. Knutson, PhD, assistant professor and sleep specialist at the University of Chicago’s Department of Medicine
Say so long to sleep
And, as you may know, lack of shut-eye doesn’t just leave you foggy the next day: Chronic, long-term insufficient sleep ups your odds of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, even weight gain. So what to do? Try these unexpected tweaks, and wake up feeling incredibly well-rested.
Halt your afternoon habit
It’s a no-brainer that drinking coffee or tea right before you hit the sack won’t do you any sleep favors. But you also need to watch your afternoon drinks, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, a clinical associate professor at Boston University. Love your 4 p.m. peach tea? It’s got caffeine, and so do some flavored waters and even orange sodas, Blake warns. Check the labels on your favorite midday drinks—any that boast energy-boosting benefits are likely culprits. Then, if possible, stop sipping them by 2 p.m., so there’s time for their effects to wear off. Naturally, coffee drinks pack a real wallop, so stay away from them after lunch.
Choose sleep superfoods
While it’s important to avoid a big, heavy meal right before bed (a full stomach will disturb your sleep), some foods may actually help you snooze, Blake says. If you’ve had a few nights of restless sleep, make a light whole-wheat-pasta dish with fresh vegetables, a little diced chicken breast, tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of Parmesan for dinner. This meal contains a snooze-friendly combination of protein and tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to sleep-promoting serotonin in the body.
If your stomach’s growling late at night, try a small bowl of cottage cheese with banana slices, another dish that serves up tryptophan. Other combos of healthy carbs and protein, such as milk and graham crackers or yogurt sprinkled with cereal, will also do the trick.