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Foods That Help You Sleep: What to Eat and What to Avoid

foods that help you sleep

When one thinks about the prerequisites of getting a good night’s sleep, the mind automatically darts to the things present in the immediate environment like the bed, pillows, or perhaps a cool and pleasant temperature in the room. The physical environment has a profound effect on the quality of sleep, along with choosing the best foods for good sleep. In fact, the mattress you rest your back on not only influences the quality of your sleep but can also affect your musculoskeletal health. The wrong mattress can exponentially increase chronic pain problems and give you a bad posture.

In fact, the type of mattress can also differ according to body weight and the sleeping posture of the individual. While an individual with a lower BMI can make do with a thinner mattress, a person who is on the heavier side of the spectrum would require a thicker and firmer mattress to provide adequate support to the back and the spine. Similarly, the type of mattress would be different for a side sleeper and a back sleeper.

However, besides the obvious, did you also know that what you eat throughout the day can also affect your quality of sleep at night?

Disturbed Sleep Pattern and Food Connection

In fact, a number of ailments such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes have been linked to poor sleep. Psychologists have also found a relationship between poor sleep and eating disorders such as binge eating and bulimia nervosa. Bingeing on high sodium food like potato chips and fried food can further exacerbate the problem leading to a vicious cycle that results in poor sleep, weight gain, and an unhealthy body. To get a good night’s sleep, it is always advisable to reduce the intake of fried and frozen food items.

Sleep Inducing Foods

Let’s understand the type of foods to answer how to improve sleep:

Indulge in Healthy Snacks

Scientific studies have shown that complex carbohydrates added with a little bit of protein can make an excellent bedtime snack and great food for a good sleep in the long run as well. If you feel a hunger pang and are dying for a late-night snack, replace it with a healthy snack at night.  You can reach out to a bowl of cereal or whole wheat bread coupled with a dollop of peanut butter. With time you will learn to replace unhealthy items with foods to help sleep. By having a full stomach throughout the day, you will find yourself less tempted to raid the fridge in the middle of the night for a midnight snack. 

Eat Fruits on a Daily Basis

It is recommended to add fruits to your diet every day as they’re considered one of the best sleep-inducing foods. Fruits rich in vitamins and minerals, such as bananas, cherries, pineapple, and oranges, are foods that help you sleep through the night. These fruits are known to clear your digestive tract and help the body produce melatonin & serotonin, which help you sleep better. 

Plant-based Diets

Veganism is a major lifestyle change but has numerous benefits. One of them is sleep. Such diets include foods that induce sleep and have been linked to lower inflammation which helps in uninterrupted sleep and discomfort. Including protein and vitamin-rich vegetables, nuts and fruits help improve sleep as these are considered one of the best foods for good sleep.

Melatonin Rich Foods

Melatonin is a unique hormone that is essential for sleep. It is produced by the pineal gland, which is present in the middle of the brain. This hormone syncs the body with the rhythm of the sun. More melatonin is produced in the evening when the sun is down and less during daylight. 

One of the popular ways to boost melatonin in the body is by taking supplements. These are considered safe for an average person, but if you are on prescription medications, they can interfere with it and cause side effects. Supplements may not be needed at all. Researchers have found that a balanced diet is important for sleep, but certain melatonin-rich foods also raise the level of it in the body, which when benefits sleep. These are:

  • Tart cherries: The juice made from this is found to increase the levels of melatonin in the body and induce sleep. If you are worried about adding calories in the form of juice, eat cherries as a healthier way of adding melatonin to the body.
  • Gogi berries: These are native to China but are found in various parts of India as an anti-aging food. But it is also known to contain melatonin in high amounts and improves sleep. 
  • Eggs: These are not just a great source of iron, protein, and essential nutrients but also a good source of melatonin. 
  • Fish: Fish like sardines and salmon, which are a popular food for omega-3 fatty acids, are also a great source of melatonin compared to other meats. If you want to get good quality sleep, include that as part of your diet.
  • Milk: Ayurveda considers warm milk to be food for insomnia and anxiety and also a remedy. The reason being it is rich in melatonin and hence induces sleep. 
  • Nuts: While most nuts have melatonin, almonds and pistachios have the highest amounts. It is also a great source of healthy fats like omega-3 and minerals and has many antioxidants. So an evening snack of nuts is an ideal choice. 

Foods that Prevent Sleep: What Not to Eat Before Bed

  • Go Slow on the Caffeine: Consumption of too much caffeine throughout the day can have a detrimental effect on your sleep. Studies have also shown that caffeine can disrupt your body clock, thereby reducing your sleep during the night.
  • Refined Carbs: Consumption of certain refined carbs such as white rice and white flour can lead to loss of sleep and must be controlled. These can be replaced with healthier options and foods that help you sleep.
  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods are acidic in nature, and eating them closer to bedtime causes a lack of sleep. It also raises the core temperature of the body, causing heartburn or acidity, leading to restlessness and low sleep. 

Other Tips For Good Sleep

Break Up your Meals

Just incorporating healthy foods for good sleep isn’t enough. You also need to space out the meals evenly throughout the day. To achieve a better sleeping habit, you need to:

  • Have a balanced diet throughout the day that is complete with all the important nutrients that your body needs to function properly. 
  • Rather than having a heavy meal just before going to bed, try breaking up the meals into six smaller meals throughout the day. This way, you can avoid the danger of eating too much or too little. 
  • Avoid large, late-night dinners are known to increase the blood flow to the digestive tract, which is one of the main reasons for a bloated stomach. 
  • Do not skip dinner as it can lower the iron level and is known to be a contributor to restless leg syndrome. You can also check out our blog on a conversation with Nutritionist Dr Nikita Suresh on food habits for sleeping.

Hydration & Sleep

Besides solid food, doctors also recommend staying hydrated throughout the day to enable better sleep at night. However, refrain from emptying the whole bottle of water right before you go to bed in case you do not wish to visit the washroom five times at night!

Practice Yoga and Meditation before sleep

For years, practicing Yoga and Meditation has had numerous benefits, especially for mental well-being and helping sleep. It helps improve sleeping patterns and enables you to fall asleep faster and better at night. 

Importance of Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a collective term for your daily routine and sleeps environment. It plays an important role in how well you sleep. A good sleep environment means having the right bedroom temperature, with no sleep disruptions due to light and sound, sleeping on the right mattress and pillows, and having a decor that promotes restful sleep. 

While foods play a great part in your sleep, if you follow poor sleep hygiene, it is likely to be less effective. For instance, if you use electronic devices at night that suppress your melatonin production, no amount of good foods can give sleep-promoting benefits. Review your lifestyle and sleep hygiene which is the starting point for better sleep.


A consistent and balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and is a source of essential minerals and vitamins is best for promoting sleep. Follow healthy lifestyle habits and try to include and avoid the above-mentioned foods and get good sleep and health.

Frequently Asked Questions On Foods for Good Sleep

Is it good to do yoga before bed?

Doing relaxing yoga is a good way to have a peaceful sleep. Including relaxing yoga in your nightly routine can increase the duration and quality of sleep.

What food causes sleepless nights?

As per studies, consuming refined carbs and sugary foods increase the risk of insomnia or poor quality sleep.

What are 5 healthy lifestyles?

Regular exercise, having a healthy and balanced diet, keeping the weight in control, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking are 5 healthy lifestyles.

What drink Helps You sleep?

Warm milk with a pinch of turmeric is known to help sleep. Various types of decaffeinated herbal tea like green tea and chamomile tea also help sleep.

How can I increase my sleep naturally?

Create a proper sleep schedule, follow a proper sleep routine, avoid foods that disrupt sleep, exercise regularly, have an active lifestyle, avoid daytime naps, manage stress, and have a good sleep environment.

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