Last Updated on August 5, 2022
If you’re gearing up for a night of sleep that will leave you feeling rejuvenated, you don’t need to reach for pills or supplements to help you get there. Instead, there are plenty of foods and beverages you can enjoy that can promote sleep without leaving you feeling groggy.
Whether you already struggle with sleep or you’re ready to start a routine that helps you relax before bed, read on for what you should add to your diet to improve your sleep quality.
No matter how close to bedtime you eat your dinner, you can fill your plate with meals that help promote a restful night of sleep. Two great proteins to add to your meal are turkey and fatty fish. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you ever notice how sleepy you get after eating the main course? It’s not just because you’ve filled your belly, it’s because turkey (and fatty fish) contain tryptophan, an amino acid that increases the production of the hormone melatonin.
Some other foods to include in your dinners that help with sleep are white rice, cottage cheese, seaweed, and hard-boiled eggs. When Juan Pablo Cappello, Co-Founder and CEO from Nue Life needs to sleep, he turns to his tried-and-true meal that mixes two foods to aid in sleep. “When I go through a phase of struggling with sleep, I make one of my favorite meals: Teriyaki Turkey Rice Bowls. Not only is it super tasty, but I never have trouble sleeping when I eat this meal.”
If you need a light meal or snack to help you sleep, Register dietitian and author of From Burnout to Balance Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN recommends canned tuna in olive oil paired with cucumber slices. “Canned tuna provides several nutrients to aid in sleep quality and support a good mood, including vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and tryptophan. Since it’s 95% water, cucumber is a refreshing superfood that won’t feel too heavy late at night.”
Eating a small snack before bed can have major benefits on your sleep quality if you reach for the right foods. For a sweet snack, reach for fruits like kiwis, bananas, or cherries. For something on the salty side, nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios help with sleep.
“I keep almonds everywhere,” admits Jae Pak, Founder from Jae Pak MD. This tree nut has huge health benefits outside of sleep including helping to reduce inflammation and providing plenty of nutrients to the body. To aid in sleep, almonds feature a good source of melatonin, which plays a role in your body’s natural sleep and wake cycle.
Jae Pak continues by sharing, “They’re a nutritious snack during the day while I’m working and, if I’m feeling those annoying stomach pains before bed, I popped a few in my mouth. Every night I do, I find I fall asleep much quicker. Now it’s become a regular part of my nightly routine.”
Similar to turkey and fatty fish, bananas contain tryptophan. The fruit also has magnesium in it and both tryptophan and magnesium promote sleep. “As I’m winding down at night, I’ll snack on a banana,” shared Bradley Hall, CEO from Sonu Sleep. “I’ll eat it about one hour before I hit the sheets as I’m putting together anything I need for the next morning. It’s that last little thing I do before sleep that helps me feel calm and full.”
Some dairy products, like milk or plain yogurt, also feature tryptophan. Enjoy a whole-grain cereal with milk before bed or mix berries into plain yogurt for a snack to keep you full and improve your sleep. Not feeling up for a snack? Mix some warm milk with cinnamon or honey to soothe you into rest.
Soothing Drinks Before Sleep
If you prefer not to eat right before bed but are still looking for a natural way to promote sleep, there are plenty of drinks you can consume to help. Herbal teas are a great option no matter what you choose. Often it’s the warmth of the tea that can make you feel relaxed. Just make sure to stay away from any teas with caffeine as, of course, this could prevent you from getting the sleep you need.
One of the most popular and effective teas to drink before bed is chamomile. How does chamomile help promote sleep? Dr. Matthew Schmitt, a doctor of sleep medicine, explains, “It’s full of antioxidants, promotes calmness, and can reduce anxiety.” The specific antioxidant in chamomile tea that helps with sleep is apigenin, which binds to receptors in your brain that can promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
Natália Sadowski, Director of Aesthetics from Nourishing Biologicals never goes to bed without her chamomile tea. “Each night, I cozy up with a book and a cup of chamomile tea. It’s the perfect way to wind down. I put away all my devices, grab my newest read, and fill my favorite mug with tea. A combination of all my favorite things relaxes me and when my head hits the pillow, I’m out. I wake up feeling very refreshed in the morning.”
If you’re looking for a few other drink options to help with sleep, try passionflower tea or cherry juice. Passionflower tea contains apigenin like chamomile tea as well as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), both of which can help reduce anxiety and stress that could be preventing you from getting the rest you need. If tea is not your thing, try some tart cherry juice, which can promote sleepiness and improve your quality of sleep.
When you add these foods or drinks into your diet or evening routine, you don’t have to rely on anything else to help you get the rest you need. As with anything, some foods may affect you differently than others. So test out adding some of these into your diet to figure out which one is the best method to help you find your ideal sleep quality. Then, incorporate it into your routine so you can put your struggles with sleep to rest.