It's your fifth night in a row tossing and turning in bed; you've tried Benadryl, Melatonin pills, and NyQuil, but nothing is working—you aren't alone. Did you know that 30 percent of American adults are only sleeping six or fewer hours a day? Americans are sleep deprived for a variety of reasons, one of them being difficulty falling asleep. If you're kept up at night thinking about the stresses of life or are unable to relax, your first instinct may be to take a sleep aid. However, there are other, natural methods to help you fall asleep.

One thing you might not have considered when it comes to your restless nights is what you are eating before bed. You might be surprised that certain foods can actually stimulate you and keep you up at night when you are trying to fall asleep. Thankfully, there is also a variety of foods that could help you relax and send you off into a great night's rest.

What Not To Eat: Dark Chocolate

baking chocolate, sweets for eats, dark chocolate, chocolate on wood, chocolate
Cory Cole

A nice piece of dark chocolate is a luxurious and satisfying snack, and it also happens to be loaded with health benefits. However, night time probably isn't the ideal time to consume this delicious treat. Along with a significant amount of caffeine, it also contains theobromine—a bitter compound of the cacao plant. It's an established fact that theobromine causes the heart rate to increase and can contribute to sleepless nights as well as genuine difficulty falling asleep. 

What To Eat Instead: Dairy Products

reusable straw, straw, Dairy Free, Vegan, oat milk, milk, mason jar
Laura Subiaur

Instead of eating dark chocolate before bed, a great alternative is a dairy product. Remember when you couldn't fall asleep when you were little? Your parents would give you a glass of warm milk, but you never understood why.

Dairy is actually a natural source of tryptophan, an amino acid which forms the basis of brain chemicals that make people tired. The sugar in dairy provides a great carrier for this amino acid. So, a glass of milk before bed could be the answer for you. If you're lactose intolerant, fear not, there are other alternatives for a good night's rest. 

What Not To Eat: Tomatoes

fresh produce, tomatoes, farmer's market, Vegetables, produce
Kelsey Ragnini

What are your go-to foods after a night out with friends? For a lot of people, it's pizza slathered in sauce and cheese, or pasta covered in tomato sauce. While tomatoes do offer health benefits, if they are a large component in your late night snacks, they could be hindering your sleep. Tomatoes are rich in tyramine, which triggers your brain to release norepinephrine—a chemical that will boost your brain activity which can make it difficult to fall asleep.

What To Eat Instead: Grapes and Cherries

berry, grape, juice, pasture, sweet, wine
Kristine Mahan

Scientifically speaking, tomatoes are considered fruits. So if you are looking for fruits to eat before bed that could help you get a good night's sleep, grapes and cherries are an excellent option. A 2006 study on grapes found that popular grape varieties used to make wine, such as Merlot, Sangiovese, and Cabernet, contain high levels of melatonin: a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Cherries are also high in melatonin, and regularly eating cherries could help people with insomnia regulate their sleep cycles.

What Not To Eat: Chili Pepper

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Dea Uy

While you might crave spicy burritos, chili, or tacos at night, it may not be the best choice for your sleep. Spicy foods—especially chili pepper—have a negative effect on sleep. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that makes them so spicy. This ingredient can inhibit sleep by causing extreme changes in body temperature. 

What to Eat Instead: Beans and Nuts

nut, almond, meat, apricot pits, walnut
Torey Walsh

If you're looking for something satisfying and filling at night, try beans or nuts as a non-spicy substitute. B vitamins, naturally found in beans, have been used to treat insomnia for a while now—they are known to help alleviate stress and anxiety.

A handful of nuts are another great snack to have at night. Nuts are a great source of magnesium, which aids in sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system—the system responsible for relaxing your nerves. Magnesium also helps to regulate your melatonin levels.

cake, beer, tea, bed, blanket, pillow, sleeping, sleep, nap, napping
Jocelyn Hsu

So the next time you can't fall asleep, consider the foods that you consumed before bed. Maybe you've eaten too much dark chocolate, too many tomatoes, or an excessive amount of spicy food. For a better night's sleep, try drinking milk, eating grapes and cherries, or grabbing a handful of beans or nuts instead. Try keeping a food journal to see what foods personally affect you before bed time. If you are having trouble sleeping, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor or dietician what foods could be affecting your sleep. Instead of drug store sleeping aids, natural remedies could be your fix.