Foods to help you sleep better

by Michael Davis in Education | Nutrition

When it comes to sleep, diet is often overlooked as a way to improve or maintain sleep quality. Research suggests that certain foods may help improve those precious hours you get to spend in bed. Good sleep is crucial if you want to function normally during the day. A lack of rest can negatively affect your ability to learn and concentrate during waking hours. More interestingly, poor sleep can increase feelings of hunger, causing you to eat more than you normally would. Various foods contain certain nutrients that can help improve your sleep. Incorporating these into your diet is easy, and you can start doing it right away. Here are some of them:


Melatonin is a sleep inducing hormone that helps regulate the sleeping and waking cycle. Levels increase when it is dark to help you sleep and decrease during the day to you help you feel awake. Melatonin is essential for good sleep.

Some foods high in melatonin:

  • Eggs
    • Eggs are amongst other animal products, one of the best sources of melatonin. They also contain a good source of protein, albumin.
  • Nuts
    • Most nuts have high amounts of melatonin. Pistachios and almonds are amongst the highest. They are very nutritious as they contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. Be mindful of quantities as nuts are high in calories as they contain a lot of fat.
  • Cherry juice
    • Tart Cherry juice has been shown to be one of the best foods that aids sleep as it contains the most melatonin out of all foods. Keep in mind that fruit juice does contain a lot of calories, so eating cherries would seem like a healthier option as you would be eating more fibre.
  • Other fruits
    • Such as pineapples and bananas which are high in melatonin


Magnesium and Calcium

Magnesium is a mineral that helps the body function correctly. Magnesium helps the body relax and has the potential to help you sleep for longer. Calcium helps form bones and teeth and has many other important functions in the body. It is also useful for sleep.

Some foods high in magnesium:

  • Dark chocolate
    • A good quality dark chocolate is very high in magnesium. It also contains iron, copper, and antioxidants. The downside to dark chocolate is that it is very calorific
  • Avocados
    • Not only are avocados extremely delicious, but they are also an excellent source of magnesium. They are also high in potassium, vitamin k and healthy fats
  • Tofu
    • Tofu is a great source of magnesium. Tofu is also high in protein making it a staple in the vegetarian diet


Some foods high in calcium:


  • Kale
    • Kale is amongst the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Not only is it high in calcium, it also contains high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin C.
  • Milk and other dairy products
    • Dairy based products are a great source of calcium and protein. A warm glass of milk before bed has been shown to induce relaxation and aid sleep
  • Chamomile tea
    • A steaming cup of chamomile tea before bed can help facilitate a restful night’s sleep. Chamomile is high in calcium and magnesium


Omega-3 Fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that your body cannot make on its own. They are essential for our survival. We rely on the foods we eat in order to satisfy our needs for Omega-3. Research suggests that Omega-3 has the potential to improve sleep quality and reduce stress.

Some foods high in omega-3:

  • Fatty fish
    • Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are amongst the foods containing the most Omega-3. Fatty fish are also a great source of vitamin B12
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Flaxseed oil is often used as an omega-3 supplement as it is a rich source of ALA (a type of Omega-3). The seeds themselves are a great source of fibre and magnesium. Other nuts and seeds such as walnuts and chia seeds are an excellent source of Omega-3
  • Algae
    • Provides the same benefits as fish oil and is a great alternative if you don’t eat fish. Algae oil is also available in supplement form



Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted into serotonin in the brain which in turn helps improve sleep quality and mood. Serotonin stimulates the areas of the brain that are in control of the sleep-wake behaviour.


Some foods high in Tryptophan:

  • Eggs
    • Egg yolks especially are extremely rich in tryptophan
  • Nuts and seeds
    • All nuts and seeds contain tryptophan
  • Turkey
    • Turkey meat is a great source of lean protein and tryptophan



More tips to help you sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine late afternoon or evening or before bed as it can prevent you from falling asleep
  • Reduce alcohol consumption as it can reduce quality and duration of sleep
  • Avoid eating right before bedtime. Heavy meals especially can cause discomfort and prevent you from falling asleep.