35 Foods for Better Sleep

35 Foods for Better Sleep


According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average human requires between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. If you are having trouble meeting this goal, instead of reaching for an over-the-counter or prescription sleep aid, try remedying your sleep patterns by adding these foods to your diet for better sleep naturally.


  • Salmon, halibut, tuna, chickpeas, and fortified cereal: The vitamin B6 in these foods helps your body to manufacture melatonin.


  • Tart cherry juice: Two cups each day might help to improve melatonin levels and chronic insomnia in one study.


  • Milk, yogurt, cheese, green leafy vegetables: Foods that contain calcium might make it easier to fall asleep. Dairy products are also rich in tryptophan, which increases both melatonin and serotonin in the brain.


  • Whole grains, almonds: Magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains might help to keep you asleep until morning.


  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, lima beans, oranges, tomatoes: The potassium in these foods might help you to fall sleep more easily.


  • Walnuts, turkey, shrimp, lobster, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, popcorn: These foods provide tryptophan, which increases levels of melatonin in the body.


  • Lettuce: Lactucarium, a compound with sedative properties, is found in lettuce; in fact, some people recommend boiling lettuce leaves in water and sipping the brew before going to bed.


  • Pretzels, corn chips, and jasmine rice: All have been said to aid in sleep, because they have a high glycemic index. The blood sugar and insulin increased from consuming these foods is said to help tryptophan enter your brain.


  • Valerian, chamomile, lemon balm, or passionfruit tea: All are said to inspire sleep by relaxing nerves and muscles and acting on the nervous system.


  • Dark chocolate: Contains serotonin, which helps you to relax.


  • Pineapple: In one study, levels of a melatonin marker were increased more than 266% after eating pineapple.


References and recommended readings


Gardner A. Best and worst foods for sleep. Health website. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20628881,00.html. Accessed March 29, 2016.


Hunter F. Eat right, sleep tight. BBC website. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/eat-right-sleep-tight. Accessed March 29, 2016.


Main E. 9 foods that can help you sleep better. Prevention website. http://www.prevention.com/food/foods-better-sleep. May 7, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2016.


Moody C. 10 foods that make you sleepy and 10 that keep you up. Good Housekeeping website. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/g796/sleep-inducing-foods/. Published August 29, 2013. Accessed March 29, 2016.


National Sleep Foundation recommends new sleep times. National Sleep Foundation website. https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times. Published February 2, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2016.


Simon N. 14 foods that can help you sleep. AARP website. http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/foods-that-help-you-sleep-photo.html. Updated November 16, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2016.


16 foods that help you sleep. Reader’s Digest website. http://www.rd.com/health/beauty/foods-that-help-you-sleep/. Accessed March 29, 2016.


Wright B. 9 foods to help you sleep. EatingWell website. http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/9_foods_to_help_you_sleep. Accessed March 29, 2016.


Contributed by Elaine Hinzey, RDN, LD/N

Review date: March 3/26/16

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