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What to Eat to Help You Sleep Better

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jan 19, 2021

What to Eat to Help You Sleep Better

If you are having trouble sleeping, here are some ideas of what to eat to help you sleep better. A proper diet and exercise routine can improve your overall health and give you restful sleep. Not only getting the right amount of sleep, but the quality of sleep, has a great impact on your health. A good night’s sleep can boost your immunity and physical recovery.

Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

#1: Milk

Out of all the food listed here, milk is undoubtedly the most well-known. Warm milk is often given to children to put them to sleep, but adults can still do this. Other dairy products that are made from milk, such as cheese and yogurt, are also effective.

Milk contains calcium and the essential amino acid known as tryptophan. This is necessary for the brain to synthesize serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is involved in mood regulation, while melatonin is produced at night and is responsible for the sleep and wake cycles.

#2: Rice

Rice is one of the staples of Filipino meals, especially during dinnertime. White rice works especially well at putting people to sleep. The high glycemic index of white rice is what causes many of us to feel sleepy after a meal. 

Food with higher glycemic index causes a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. In response, the body releases large amounts of insulin to normalize blood sugar again. Increased insulin and decreased blood sugar results in drowsiness, known as reactive hypoglycemia. The best time to eat high-carb meals is about 4 hours before bedtime.

If you have recently gone on a low-carb diet, it’s possible that your sleep pattern will be affected. If you notice that you are having trouble sleeping after altering your diet, give your body some time to adjust. In the meantime, try exercising earlier in the day and avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.

If you are looking to lose weight but do not want to disturb your sleep patterns, the Mediterranean Diet is said to improve quality of sleep and health in general.

what to eat to help you sleep better 

#3: Chicken

Poultry like chicken, turkey, and even eggs, can help with getting better sleep. Poultry contains tryptophan and, as with other food on this list, helps with sleep. Some studies suggest that poultry and red meat may disrupt sleep more than fish, but this is likely due to the higher saturated fat and cholesterol content of these meats.

#4: Bananas and other fresh fruit

Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium, fiber, and natural sugars. Fiber and sugar help you feel satiated and sleepy while potassium and magnesium help you stay asleep. Bananas also contain some tryptophan.

Cherries and kiwis have also been found to contain antioxidants, melatonin, and serotonin which improve sleep quality. Avocados contain omega-3 fatty acids which are also found in fish and can help you sleep better.

what to eat to help you sleep better

#5: Fish

Fish like salmon, mackerel (tanigue), tuna, and sardines are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. The brain uses these for the regulation of serotonin and production of melatonin. Serotonin and melatonin help with sleep. You can also get vitamin D naturally by exposing your skin to sunlight.

Fish is healthy because it is low in saturated (“bad”) fat, cholesterol and calories while containing a lot of protein. However, some fish contain high levels of mercury and should be eaten in moderation. Tuna is one example.

Key takeaways

After reading this article, you know what to eat to help you sleep better. While food can positively or negatively affect your sleep pattern and quality, it is not the only factor. Lifestyle and underlying conditions also have a great impact on your ability to sleep. If trying these foods doesn’t help, it may be time to seek help from your doctor.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jan 19, 2021

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