A woman drinks a glass of milk as she lies in bed.
The right drink at the right time can lead to peaceful sleep. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

While there’s no magic elixir to help you sleep, there are some drinks that can increase your odds of a restful night.

There are also some drinks that can spoil your slumber completely.

“Our bodies do a lot of rebuilding and maintenance work while we sleep,” said dietitian Christy McFadden, MS, RDN. “Balanced, healthy eating helps the rebuilding process to keep you healthy in the short-term and over the long haul.”

What should you drink—and what should you avoid—to increase your odds of a good night’s sleep?

McFadden lays out the do’s and don’ts for those seeking bedtime bliss.

Drink these for better sleep

  • Herbal tea. Try chamomile or ginger. Although studies haven’t really proven they help people relax and sleep, it seems to work for a lot of people. “It might not be the herb, but just sipping the tea itself that helps,” McFadden said. Better yet, combine that nighttime cup of tea with other calming activities like deep breathing and meditation.
  • Milk. Warm it up or drink your milk cold for a dose of tryptophan (the same chemical that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner). Tryptophan is linked to serotonin and melatonin, the sleep hormone.
  • A soy protein smoothie or kefir. “A standard recommendation, especially for those with diabetes, is to have either a fat or protein with a sugar before bedtime,” McFadden said.

Ditch these sleep spoilers

  • Caffeine. Most people should avoid caffeine before bedtime because it changes the chemistry of the brain to make you more alert.
  • Fruit juice. Sugary drinks will give you a spike of sugar, which is not what you want at bedtime. If you can’t resist, limit yourself to a small glass. “You don’t want to load up on a high-sugar drink before bedtime,” McFadden said.
  • Alcohol. “Some people actually feel more tired the next day after alcohol, like they didn’t sleep,” McFadden said. Here’s why: Although you may fall asleep more quickly after a drink, it can reduce your REM sleep, which is the deep sleep that restores your body and strengthens your immune system.

More bedtime tips

Some people find they simply sleep better when their bellies are full. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread just might be the perfect bedtime snack.

“It takes longer to digest, you get fiber in the bread and the healthy fat in peanut butter helps keep your blood sugar and insulin stable,” McFadden said.

And remember to stash away your phone and computer before bedtime.

“There’s a lot of evidence that links blue light and trouble with sleep,” she said.