Night-Time Nutrition: 6 Foods to Help You Sleep at Night
Often overlooked, nutrition is an incredibly important factor in helping to regulate your sleeping patterns. Different components in certain foods can interact with your body, stimulating the production of sleep-promoting chemicals.
Here, we outline the six best foods you can eat before bed to improve your sleep quality.
What chemicals are involved in regulating the sleep cycle?
A range of enzymes, nutrients, amino acids, and hormones work together to promote optimal sleep and control your sleep-wake cycle. While many foods contain small amounts of these sleep-enhancing compounds, only some have high enough concentrations to impact sleep.
Sour cherry juice
Sour cherry juice is thought to support sleep because of its role in the production of melatonin — a critically important hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and prepares the body for rest.ii Sour cherry also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which interact with cytokines (a group of proteins that influence sleep), which could also be why studies have found it to be beneficial for promoting quality sleep.iii
In order to influence sleep hygiene, you need to choose tart or sour varieties of cherries, as these contain greater concentrations of melatonin. As you would have to eat a lot of cherries to experience a change in your sleep, we recommend a high-strength, quality sour cherry juice instead.
To promote restful sleep, take 10ml (2 teaspoons) daily — the first in the morning, and the second one hour before bed.
Chamomile has long been used for its calming and soothing properties. A natural sedative, research has demonstrated chamomile’s effectiveness at managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety, making it a helpful sleep aid.vi Experts believe the relaxing qualities of chamomile can be attributed to apigenin — an antioxidant that binds to specific receptors in the brain, and regulates the body’s emotional responses and induces sleep.vii, viii
A well-known health food, almonds can also support sleep quality. This is largely because they’re a rich source of melatonin, which is essential for regulating the body’s sleep-wake cycles and inducing rest at night.ix
Almonds are also high in magnesium — another essential compound for sleep. Not only does this mineral help the brain and body relax, but studies suggest it can improve overall sleep quality, too.x
If you want to eat almonds before bed, one handful should be enough to support sleep. Supplementing with magnesium — either MagAsorb® Ultra (Magnesium Citrate 150mg Tablet) or MagAsorb® 375 - One-A-Day Magnesium — can be an effective way of incorporating magnesium into your nutrition.xi
Though bananas are usually considered an energy-boosting food, they’re also packed with minerals and amino acids that can support sleep. Firstly, they contain magnesium and potassium — two important muscle relaxants that soothe the nervous system and ease the body into restful sleep.xii, xiii
Furthermore, bananas contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is converted to 5-HTP in the brain. In turn, 5-HTP is converted to serotonin — an important neurotransmitter that’s indirectly involved in the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone.xiv
Having a banana before bed can help to relax the body and prepare it for sleep. Adding 5-HTP or magnesium supplements to your diet may further improve your sleep hygiene.xv
According to a growing body of research, kiwi fruit may be one of the best foods to eat before bed.xvi
Research has established a compelling link between antioxidants and sleep, with data suggesting that low antioxidant levels are associated with poor sleep.xvii Experts surmise the antioxidants, vitamin C and carotenoids, may be responsible for kiwi fruit’s sleep-promoting properties.xviii
Kiwi fruit is also rich in serotonin, which plays a critical role in sleep by interacting with melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.xix
Eating 1-2 medium kiwis before bed may help improve your sleep quality and quantity. To further enhance your nutritional reserves, you may want to consider taking a Vitamin C supplement.
Research suggests regularly consuming oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and trout, may improve sleep quality, decrease sleep latency, and enhance daytime performance.xx
Oily fish aside has a substantial vitamin D content. Experts believe the combination of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid in oily fish may improve sleep quality as both are reported to increase the production of serotonin.xvi,xxi
To support sleep, try eating a serving of oily fish before bed, two to three times per week. A high-strength fish oil and vitamin D supplement may help cover any nutritional shortfalls, too.
Diet is an important means of improving your sleep hygiene. To reap the benefits of the sleep-promoting foods outlined above, consume them 2-3 hours before bed. This way, you will avoid digestive issues, such as acid reflux, that may disrupt sleep. There are also certain foods you can avoid in order to sleep better at night.
To learn more about how to enhance your sleep hygiene, explore the rest of our dedicated sleep resources.
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(2019). Foods with Calcium and Potassium Help You Sleep. Disabled World. Available online: https://www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/sleepdisorders/help-sleeping.php
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Patrick. R., Ames. B.. (2015). Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. The FASEB Journal. 29(6), 2207-2222.
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.