To sleep better: Dietician Reveals Foods To Eat

In this article, we will explore how certain foods can help you to sleep better, providing actionable insights from a dietician’s perspective.

To sleep better

The Link Between Diet and Sleep

Sleep is essential for our health and well-being, but many people struggle to get enough quality sleep every night. Poor sleep can affect our mood, energy, concentration, memory, immunity, and even our weight. One of the factors that can influence our sleep quality is our diet. What we eat and drink before bed can either help us relax and fall asleep, or keep us awake and restless.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the link between diet and sleep
  • Foods that promote better sleep
  • How to incorporate these foods into your diet

How What You Eat Affects Your Sleep

Research has shown that what we eat before bedtime can influence our sleep patterns. Foods rich in certain nutrients can encourage a state of relaxation and make it easier to sleep better.

Nutrients That Promote Sleep

  • Magnesium: Found in almonds and spinach, magnesium can improve sleep quality.
  • Tryptophan: This amino acid, present in turkey and milk, is a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin.
  • Melatonin: Foods like cherries and oats naturally contain melatonin, which regulates sleep.

Foods To Eat To Sleep Better

Complex Carbohydrates

  • Whole Grains: Brown rice and whole-grain pasta can help to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the night.
  • Fiber-Rich Foods: Beans and berries can prevent overnight blood sugar spikes that disrupt sleep.

Lean Proteins

  • Turkey and Chicken: These contain tryptophan, which aids in the production of melatonin.
  • Fish: Salmon and tuna are high in vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin.

Healthy Fats

  • Nuts and Seeds: A source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium.
  • Avocado: Rich in monounsaturated fats, which can support overall sleep quality.

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Kiwis and Bananas: High in antioxidants and serotonin, which can help to sleep better.
  • Leafy Greens: Spinach and kale are packed with sleep-promoting nutrients.

How food affects our sleep

Our sleep quality depends on a complex interaction of hormones, neurotransmitters, and environmental factors that regulate our circadian rhythm, or our internal body clock.

Our circadian rhythm determines when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert, and it is influenced by the amount and timing of light exposure, physical activity, and food intake.

One of the hormones that plays a key role in our sleep cycle is melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin is responsible for signaling to our body that it is time to sleep, and it is released in response to darkness.

Therefore, exposing ourselves to natural light during the day and avoiding artificial light at night can help us maintain a healthy melatonin level and a regular sleep pattern.

Optimize Sleep with Serotonin and GABA: Food Choices Matter

Another factor that affects our sleep quality is the balance of neurotransmitters in our brain, such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that regulates our mood, appetite, and sleep, and it is derived from an amino acid called tryptophan.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of neurons in the brain and induces relaxation and sleepiness. Both serotonin and GABA are influenced by the foods we eat, as some nutrients can either stimulate or inhibit their production and function.

Therefore, choosing the right foods to eat before bed can help us optimize our melatonin, serotonin, and GABA levels, and enhance our sleep quality and duration.

On the other hand, eating the wrong foods can have the opposite effect, and cause us to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or to wake up feeling groggy and tired.

Incorporating Sleep-Inducing Foods Into Your Diet

Dinner Ideas for Better Sleep

Suggestions for meals that incorporate these foods, ensuring they are part of a balanced diet.

Snacks That Help You Sleep

Healthy snack options for those late-night cravings that won’t disrupt your sleep.

The best foods to eat for a good night's sleep

According to a registered dietician, the best foods to eat for a good night's sleep are those that are rich in melatonin, tryptophan, magnesium, and calcium.

These nutrients can help promote sleep by regulating our circadian rhythm and increasing the production of serotonin and GABA, two neurotransmitters that induce relaxation and sleepiness.

Here are some examples of foods that contain these sleep-friendly nutrients:


Cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, and they have been shown to improve sleep quality and duration in several studies.

One study found that drinking tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks increased the total sleep time and sleep efficiency of older adults with insomnia.

Another study found that consuming cherry juice concentrate before and after a flight reduced the symptoms of jet lag in healthy volunteers.


Kiwis are another fruit that can help us sleep better, as they are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and serotonin.

A study involving 24 adults with self-reported sleep problems found that eating two kiwis one hour before bed for four weeks improved their sleep onset, duration, and efficiency.

The researchers suggested that the high content of serotonin and antioxidants in kiwis may be responsible for these effects.


Bananas are a good source of tryptophan, magnesium, and potassium, which can help relax our muscles and nerves, and facilitate the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin.

Bananas also contain natural sugars that can help stabilize our blood sugar levels and prevent us from waking up hungry during the night.


Almonds are rich in magnesium, which is a mineral that plays a vital role in our sleep quality and quantity.

Magnesium helps regulate our circadian rhythm, relax our muscles and nerves, and modulate the activity of GABA receptors in the brain.

A low intake of magnesium has been linked to insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea. A handful of almonds before bed can provide us with enough magnesium to support our sleep, as well as healthy fats and protein that can keep us satiated.


Walnuts are another nut that can benefit our sleep, as they contain high amounts of tryptophan, melatonin, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our brain health and function, and they can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can impair our sleep quality.

Walnuts also have a positive effect on our mood, as they can increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that are involved in happiness and motivation.


Milk is a classic bedtime drink that can help us sleep better, as it contains tryptophan, calcium, and vitamin D.

Calcium is important for the synthesis of melatonin and the regulation of muscle contractions, and a deficiency of calcium can cause sleep disturbances.

Vitamin D is also essential for our sleep quality, as it influences the expression of genes related to our circadian rhythm and the production of serotonin.

A warm glass of milk before bed can help us relax and fall asleep faster, especially if we add some honey, cinnamon, or vanilla for extra flavor and sweetness.


Yogurt is another dairy product that can improve our sleep quality, as it contains tryptophan, calcium, and probiotics.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and influence our digestion, immunity, and brain function.

Some studies have suggested that probiotics can help us sleep better by modulating the gut-brain axis, which is the communication network between our digestive system and our central nervous system.

Probiotics can also help us cope with stress, anxiety, and depression, which are common causes of insomnia and poor sleep quality.


Cheese is a delicious and versatile food that can also help us sleep better, as it contains tryptophan, calcium, and tyrosine.

Tyrosine is another amino acid that can boost our mood and cognitive performance, as it is a precursor of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, three neurotransmitters that are involved in alertness, attention, and motivation.

Cheese can also provide us with protein and fat that can keep us full and satisfied throughout the night.


Oats are a great choice for a healthy and filling breakfast, but they can also help us sleep better if we eat them before bed.

Oats are rich in melatonin, tryptophan, magnesium, and fiber, which can help regulate our circadian rhythm, increase the production of serotonin and GABA, relax our muscles and nerves, and stabilize our blood sugar levels.

Oats also contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that can lower our cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve our immune system.

A bowl of oatmeal with some fruits, nuts, seeds, or honey can be a tasty and nutritious snack that can prepare us for a restful night's sleep.


Turkey is a lean and high-quality protein that can also help us sleep better, as it contains tryptophan, zinc, and vitamin B6.

Zinc is a trace element that is involved in many enzymatic reactions in the body, and it can affect our sleep quality by modulating the activity of melatonin and GABA receptors in the brain.

Vitamin B6 is a cofactor for the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, and a deficiency of vitamin B6 can cause insomnia and depression.

A slice of turkey with some cheese, lettuce, and whole-wheat bread can be a satisfying and sleep-friendly sandwich that can be enjoyed before bed.

The worst foods to eat for a good night's sleep

While some foods can help us sleep better, others can have the opposite effect and ruin our sleep quality and quantity.

These are some of the foods and drinks that we should avoid or limit before bed, as they can interfere with our sleep by stimulating our nervous system, disrupting our blood sugar levels, and causing indigestion or heartburn:

Here are some of the worst foods to eat for a good night's sleep, according to sleep experts and research.

Spicy foods

Spicy foods, such as hot wings, curry, or chili peppers, can increase the acidity in our stomach and trigger acid reflux, especially if we have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) .

Acid reflux can cause chest pain, sour taste, and throat irritation, which can make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Spicy foods can also raise our body temperature, which can interfere with our natural cooling process during sleep.


Pizza is a popular late-night snack, but it can also be one of the worst foods for sleep. Pizza is high in fat, sodium, and calories, which can take a toll on our digestion and metabolism.

Pizza also contains tomato sauce, which is acidic and can cause or worsen acid reflux. Eating pizza too close to bedtime can make us feel bloated, uncomfortable, and restless.


Burgers are another high-fat, high-calorie food that can disrupt our sleep. Burgers can be hard to digest, especially if they are made with fatty meat, cheese, and ketchup.

They can also cause inflammation and oxidative stress in our body, which can affect our immune system and hormonal balance.

Eating burgers before bed can also lead to weight gain, which can increase the risk of sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing pauses during sleep.


Candy is a tempting treat, but it can also be a sleep saboteur. Candy is high in sugar, which can spike our blood sugar levels and cause a crash later. This can affect our mood, energy, and alertness, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Candy can also cause dental problems, such as cavities and tooth decay, which can cause pain and discomfort at night.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes, are rich in vitamin C and fiber, which are beneficial for our health.

However, citrus fruits are also acidic, which can irritate our stomach and esophagus and cause acid reflux. Citrus fruits can also increase our urine output, which can make us wake up more often to use the bathroom.

These are some of the foods that can negatively affect our sleep quality and quantity. To avoid these effects, it is best to limit or avoid these foods in the evening and eat them at least three hours before bedtime.

Instead, we can opt for foods that promote sleep, such as tart cherries, raw honey, bananas, turkey, and almonds, which contain melatonin, tryptophan, magnesium, and other sleep-enhancing nutrients.

By choosing the right foods for dinner and snacks, we can improve our chances of getting a good night's sleep.

Here are some examples of topics that dietitians have revealed on the web:

Foods to eat for a better night's sleep:

According to Kathryn Kelly, a dietitian at the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS), some foods can help promote sleep by providing tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin and melatonin, which affects the sleep-wake cycle of the body.

These foods include milk, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds. Kelly also advises avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in fat or fiber before bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep quality.

Foods to eat before and after a workout

Leanne Ward, a dietitian from Australia, has shared what to eat before and after a workout to boost your metabolism and maximize your results at the gym.

She recommends eating quick-release carbs before a workout, such as a banana, a date, a rice cake with honey, or a few lollies, as they provide glucose, the easiest fuel source for the body.

After a workout, she suggests eating a balanced meal that contains protein, carbs, and healthy fats, such as spaghetti bolognese, chicken and rice, or salmon and salad.

Foods to eat more of to lose weight in 2024

Lauren Hubert, a dietitian from Los Angeles, has revealed the three foods you should be eating more of to lose weight in the new year instead of depriving yourself.

They are eggs, beans, and berries, as they are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants, which can help you feel full, regulate your blood sugar, and fight inflammation.

Hubert also recommends eating in a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn, and tracking your macros, which are the proportions of protein, carbs, and fat in your diet.

Foods that dietitians eat every day to maintain a healthy weight

If you want to know what dietitians eat themselves, you can read some of their daily routines and food choices on various websites.

For example, NBC News has interviewed four dietitians who follow different eating patterns, such as a protein-and-fiber-rich plan, macro-counting, a high-carb diet, and a Mediterranean diet.

They all share some common foods that they love and eat every day, such as oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate.

Well+Good has also compiled a list of 10 foods that dietitians love and eat every day, such as avocado, salmon, kale, quinoa, almond butter, and berries. 


Eating the right foods can significantly enhance your sleep quality. By integrating the foods mentioned above into your diet, you can create an environment conducive to sleep better. Remember, consistency is key, and a balanced diet is part of a healthy lifestyle that supports good sleep.

Samir Sali

Delve into the diverse realms of finance, investment, and wealth management. Whether you're a seasoned investor or just beginning to navigate the financial landscape, our platform offers a plethora of information tailored to your needs.

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