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The best and worst foods for a good night's sleep

Tuesday - 10/16/2012, 2:28pm  ET

burger500.jpg
This burger may look good, but it's not the best thing to eat if you want to get some sleep, Yahoo says. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - Little, late-night jolts of hunger can be unavoidable for some of us, and can leave us scouring the refrigerator for a snack before bed. But some foods are better than others when it comes to promoting sleep.

The obvious culprit of sleep deprivation, caffeine, pops up in more than just soda and coffee. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can keep you from a good night's rest. A bar of Hershey's special-dark contains 20 milligrams of caffeine, or about the same as a half-ounce of espresso, says Yahoo Health.

Alcohol, particularly wine, when consumed late in the evening can make you wake up frequently, causing you to get less sleep. Spicy foods and foods high in fat can have a similar effect.

Dishes like curry and bacon cheeseburgers can cause heartburn, making the time you'd like to be sleeping much more uncomfortable.

But not all foods keep you up at night, and some actually help you fall asleep faster, Yahoo says.

Instead of coffee for a nighttime warm drink, Valerian tea, and other teas that naturally don't contain caffeine, can spread the onset of sleep and improve sleep quality.

A glass of milk is helpful because it contains an essential amino acid called tryptophan. This chemical is then used to make serotonin, a brain chemical often linked with happiness.

But if it's a crunch you're looking for, then fortified cereals like Kashi and shredded wheat may be a better pick. The "good" complex carbohydrates are generally good for sleep, and are paired well with milk, too.

Some fruits, like bananas and cherries can help you sleep better, as well. Cherries are one of the only foods to naturally contain melatonin, a chemical that helps promote a consistent sleep schedule. And bananas contain natural muscle-relaxants, magnesium and potassium. Both can make you sleepy.

For a full descriptions of the best and worst foods for sleep, go to Yahoo Health.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)