14 Foods That Help You Sleep

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I talk a lot about mattresses, pillows, and other sleep products that can help you sleep. You never should discount the value of a quality mattress or pillow, but you could start sleeping better tonight by just changing a few of your eating habits. Certain foods have the right stuff that your body and mind are looking for in terms of helping increase your relaxation, calm your mind, and help you get to sleep…and stay asleep. 

The best nighttime snacks are items that contain both a carbohydrate and protein, as proteins are the building blocks of tryptophan (an amino acid that contributes to feelings of sleepiness), and foods that are high in carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, in turn making you drowsy. Here are 14 good options to help increase your odds of having a restful night.

#1 Bananas

Bananas are packed with B6 vitamins. B6 is important because it can help you produce more of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Having a banana a few hours before bed, or perhaps alongside a little after dinner desert is an easy way to boost your B6 and melatonin levels.

#2 Lettuce

Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has relaxing and sedative properties. A small salad with dinner can help to prep your body for the night by calming your mind and helping you sleep.

#3 Tea

A cup of hot tea before bed is perfect to put both mind and body in a relaxed state. Chamomile tea has been shown to increase glycine. Glycine is responsible for relaxing both muscles and nerves. If you’re like me and don’t care much for chamomile there are a litany of other sleepy time teas that can help. My personal favorite is jasmine dragon phoenix pearls (weird name, but a great relaxation tea for the evening).

#4 Honey

A spoonful of honey can help tryptophan enter your brain more easily. Tryptophan is the stuff in your turkey dinner that puts you in a food coma after eating. You can take the honey raw in a small spoonful, mixed in with your tea, or spread over fruit. In addition, honey contains glucose, which will tell your brain to stop making orexin (chemical responsible for awareness). Don’t over do it on the honey though, a teaspoon is typically enough to help you sleep. 

#5 Almonds or Almond Butter on Toast

According to The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, a magnesium deficiency can make it difficult to stay asleep. If you find yourself waking up during the night you might try eating almonds more regularly. Almonds contain magnesium. They are great chopped up in a salad or if you’re a glutton for chocolate, covered in milk chocolate and available in bulk on Amazon. You can also try  almond butter on toast — this protein-packed spread on a slice of whole-grain toast is a perfect example of the aforementioned carb and protein combination.

#6 Hummus

Hummus is high in trypotophan. Try a bit of hummus with lunch or dinner in addition to your tea with honey. Honey will help the tryptophan reach your brain more easily, while the tea and hummus relax you into blissful dreams.

#7 Elk

It’s a weird one, I’ll admit that. But Elk truly is a super food to help you sleep. Elk has twice the amount of tryptophan that turkey does. A big elk steak is sure to end in a healthy nap or good night’s sleep.

#8 Cherries and Greek Yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt is a great bedtime snack, as it’s not only high in protein, but also in that ever-coveted tryptophan. Flavored versions are often high in sugar, which can hinder your ability to sleep, which is why cherries are a better option for a natural source of sugars and carbohydrates. Cherries also happen to be one of the only existing natural sources of melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep cycle regulation.

#9 Edamame

These Japanese soybeans aren’t just a great appetizer for a sushi dinner. In addition to being high in protein and fiber, edamame is also rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are known to calm the muscles and help drift off into quality sleep.

#10 Sweet Potatoes

Like edamame, these healthy carbs are also high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium to help promote good sleep and muscle relaxation in the same manner.

#11 Popcorn

TV-watching snackers can rejoice – it turns out this fan-favorite actually isn’t a terrible late-night option. Air-popped popcorn is high in fiber and low in calories.

#12 Walnuts

Like cherries, walnuts are high in natural melatonin, making them a great alternative to synthetic melatonin supplements. Just be sure to stick to plain nuts rather than anything coated or covered in sugar.

#13 Whole-Grain Cereal with Milk

If you choose a whole-grain cereal like Chex or Cheerios that is also low in sugar, you’ll have that perfect carbs-to-protein ratio to promote good quality sleep and also keep you full and satisfied.

#14 Turkey or Ham Roll Ups

A small serving of these tryptophan- and protein-laden deli meats, along with a thin layer of cream cheese or small piece of cheddar, will satisfy your stomach and ease your hunger pangs to get you right to sleep. Adding a slice of whole grain bread wouldn’t hurt either, if you find you still need a little something extra.

Do you have a special super drink or food that helps you sleep? Drop us a comment below and let us know!

Logan Block

Logan is the content director of Sleepopolis, which means he not only reviews new mattresses every week, but also curates all the comparisons, best of pages, and video guides on the site. He takes a straightforward, honest approach to his reviews and endeavors to give viewers an objective look at each new product he tries out. Logan has perfected his method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he’s not only able to discern the overall vibe of a specific bed, but to contextualize its feel within the bed-in-a-box market as a whole.