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8 Foods to Eat for a Better Night’s Sleep

Tired of counting sheep? Try these eight foods to get your best sleep ever.

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Dairy

Dairy products offer healthy doses of calcium, and some studies suggest calcium-enriched foods may lead to improved quality of sleep. Milk, in particular, is a sleep inducer because it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that raises levels of melatonin and serotonin, both of which contribute to optimal sleep health. Catching zzz’s may be as simple as following Mom’s advice to drink a warm cup of it before bed. But if your tummy is still grumbling, have fruit and cheese for a heartier pre-bedtime snack.

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Fresh cherry on plate on wooden blue background. fresh ripe cherries. sweet cherries.; Shutterstock ID 663273784Ivanna Grigorova/Shutterstock

Tart Cherries

Tart cherries provide a significant amount of naturally occurring melatonin in addition to vitamin C, which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin. Some research suggests drinking tart cherry juice before bed may help relieve insomnia. Cherries also aid in digestion and are low on the glycemic index, making them a good choice for anyone watching their sugar intake. For dinner, pair rhubarb-cherry chutney with grilled chicken or pork to help you fall asleep faster.

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Peeling a bananaAlliance/Shutterstock

Bananas

When you need a quick energy boost, nothing beats a banana. But did you know it also aids in getting a good night’s sleep? Not only are bananas inexpensive and delicious, they’re chock full of nutrients—potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6—that help produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Snack on a whole banana or sweeter yet, have a frozen banana cereal pop before hitting the hay. We’ve even got an online tutorial to show you how easy they are to make!

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Calendula tea with calendula flowers on a wooden table; Shutterstock ID 727124293; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHMadeleine Steinbach/Shutterstock

Herbal Teas

While there’s no solid evidence to support the effectiveness of tea as a sedative, many people find that including a hot cup as part of their bedtime routine helps relieve stress and boost relaxation. Chamomile is the bedtime superstar here, followed by valerian and lavender. Lavender not only smells good, but its calming properties may also decrease heart rate and blood pressure, so you can easily relax. A homemade cup of lavender mint tea may help soothe you right to sleep.

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Leafy Greens

It’s hard to go wrong with superfoods like kale, spinach, arugula and mustard greens. These powerhouse veggies boast tons of nutrients, including calcium and sleep-inducing tryptophan. In fact, a dish as simple as a side salad for dinner could help you feel restful since lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and affects the brain similarly to opium. Enjoy some leafy greens as part of a salad or blended into a smoothie. A peaceful slumber will be yours for the taking!

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Breakfast: oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, chia seeds and almonds.Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock

Oats

Oatmeal may be your go-to breakfast, but it also reigns supreme in the post-dinner snack category. That’s because the complex carbs in oats are a natural source of melatonin. Oats also contain a small amount of sleep-inducing vitamin B3 as well as magnesium, a mineral which aids in muscle and nerve relaxation. Skip the sugar-laden instant oatmeal packets, which may trigger a rapid rise in blood glucose. Instead, use steel-cut oats to make a steamy homemade bowl of peanut butter oatmeal.

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Delicious fried salmon fillet, seasonings on blue rustic concrete table. Cooked salmon steak with pepper, herbs, lemon, garlic, olive oil, spoon. Grilled fresh fish. Fish for healthy dinner. Close-up; Shutterstock ID 719333500its_al_dente/shutterstock

Fish

If there weren’t already enough good reasons to include fish as part of a healthy diet—it’s a lean protein high in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids—it can also help you snooze. Fish like salmon, tuna and halibut are rich in vitamin B6, which helps the body produce melatonin and serotonin. Include refreshing lemon salmon with basil or chunky halibut and potato chowder as part of your dinnertime routine and get ready for a great night’s sleep.

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Nuts and Seeds

Grab a big handful because these crunchy munchies are rich in tryptophan and magnesium, making them top contenders to chase away insomnia. Walnuts, cashews, almonds and pumpkin seeds, just to name a few, are tasty and high in protein, so you will feel fuller longer. They’re also good sources of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, which can help lower risk for cancer, heart disease and other maladies. Snack on a few roasted pumpkin seeds or toss some walnuts into a side dish of green beans with dinner.

Amy Glander
Amy is a book editor at Taste of Home where she gets to pour her passions for food and storytelling into trade and series cookbooks. When she’s not writing or editing, you’ll find her antiquing, cooking and baking from her favorite vintage cookbooks and exploring Milwaukee’s urban beauty with her digital SLR in hand.

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