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Bedtime Stories

25 Best Foods for Sleep

Like so many other aspects of our well-being, certain nutrients are especially important when it comes to sleep. While you may have heard that it’s not the best to eat right before you go to sleep, if you’re feeling peckish, it’s not a bad idea to have a little snack. Just pick one of these 25 best foods for sleep that are filled with micro and macronutrients that are helpful for promoting sleep. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to sleep on a full stomach, you can incorporate some of these ingredients into your dinner to get the nutrients working while you unwind for the night.

Melatonin-Producing:

Chances are you’ve heard that taking a melatonin supplement can soothe your body and mind and help put you to sleep. This is because melatonin is an important component in helping to regulate your body’s sleep and wake cycles. The following foods help to support your body in its production of melatonin. Melatonin-rich foods are especially great to add to your sleep diet when you’re fighting jet lag or need some help resetting your sleep schedule if you’re a shift worker.

  • Walnuts:
    Walnuts are actually one of the most potent sources of melatonin! In addition to melatonin, they also contain other essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, which helps to relax the muscles in your body. They’re also a great source of healthy fats. Enjoy a handful before bed, or use walnuts as a salad topper.
  • Tuna:
    Most fish, including tuna, are rich in vitamin B6, which is necessary to help your body produce melatonin and serotonin. Tuna is also rich in tryptophan, making it a great protein-rich snack before bed. A tuna filet is also a great omega-3, fatty acid-rich protein for dinner.
  • Chickpeas:
    Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are a great plant-based source of vitamin B6 to help your body produce melatonin and serotonin. You don’t have to eat them right before bed, either. Including chickpeas in meals and snacks throughout the day will help your body to relax and regulate its sleep-wake cycle, helping you to sleep more soundly. For a lower-calorie alternative to nuts, try roasted chickpeas, with a variety of seasonings. These are delicious and satisfyingly crunchy.
  • Salmon:
    Like tuna, salmon is another great source of vitamin B6 to support melatonin production. The flaky fish is also a great source of protein, making it an awesome dinner option to keep you feeling satisfied throughout the night. If you’re looking for something a little more snacky, cucumber slices topped with smoked salmon make a nice plate.
  • Tart Cherry Juice:
    Tart cherries are naturally a great source of melatonin, and tart cherry juice is often recommended twice per day to help with sleep: an ounce once in the morning, and once before bed. It can also help to naturally increase your body’s production of tryptophan, further helping to promote sleep. You can get the same from tart cherries: a trail mix with dried tart cherries or popcorn mixed with dried tart cherries and dark chocolate chips is a great snack before sleep.
  • Pomegranate:
    With plenty of B vitamins, pomegranate is another fruit that is great before bed to help with melatonin levels. You can eat the fruit itself or drink its juice. Pomegranates are also super high in vitamin C, and, interestingly enough, research has shown that people with higher vitamin C levels tend to sleep better. Pomegranate seeds are also a great salad topper to add crunch and tartness.

Relaxing Tryptophan:

If you’ve ever experienced the sleepiness and need for a post-dinner nap on Thanksgiving, then you’re familiar with the relaxing effects of tryptophan. Tryptophan is a natural sedative and a type of amino acid that helps your body to produce serotonin and melatonin, both of which combine to help with sleep.

  • Almonds:
    In addition to being a high-tryptophan food, almonds have a great mix of healthy fats and protein to keep you satiated throughout the night. You can get the benefits from a handful of almonds, a spoonful of almond butter, or slivered almonds on top of your roasted veggies at dinner.
  • Cottage Cheese:
    Because it’s a lean protein, cottage cheese is a great source of tryptophan. It’s also a great before-bed snack because the protein is awesome for your metabolism and helps to repair your muscles while you sleep. Try dipping fresh berries into some cottage cheese, or use cottage cheese to make a smoothie.
  • Yogurt:
    If yogurt is more your thing, this dairy product also makes for a great bedtime snack. Plus, the calcium in yogurt helps your body to better use tryptophan to help you feel drowsy. With so many flavor options, a cup of yogurt is a great way to satisfy any sweet cravings, or you can mix maple syrup, honey, or jam into plain yogurt to make it more of a treat.
  • Turkey:
    Perhaps the most well-known source of tryptophan, turkey is a great source of protein to make the mainstay of your dinner. But it’s just not the tryptophan that makes turkey so great for sleep: the lean protein also has a great combination of B-vitamins that help your body to produce and use calming hormones as well as the essential mineral magnesium. Try turkey slices with fresh veggies or cheese in a deconstructed sandwich.
  • Avocado:
    An awesome plant-based superfood, avocados contain tryptophan as well as folate and omega-3 fatty acids which are necessary to help your brain produce all the necessary hormones. While you can certainly enjoy avocado on its own, it’s a favorite as a guacamole dip. For something a little different, try making a chocolate avocado pudding for a delicious, creamy treat that allows you to get the benefits of avocado.
  • Milk & Milk Alternatives:
    It turns out that that old wive’s tale that a cup of warm milk before bed helps you sleep better isn’t too far from the truth: dairy is a great natural source of tryptophan. If you’re avoiding dairy, don’t fret: soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk are all a good source, too. Add milk to a cup of your favorite herbal tea or make a calming moon mylk with calming spices and adaptogens like ashwagandha to help relieve stress and prepare your body for sleep.

Calming Magnesium:

Magnesium helps your body to balance neurotransmitter levels while also calming the nervous system to soothe your body into a deeper sleep. Because it also helps to relax your muscles, magnesium-rich snacks are especially great before bed if you deal with restless leg syndrome or find it difficult to get comfortable at night because of chronic pain.

  • Bananas:
    Bananas are an awesome before-bed snack because they contain magnesium and potassium, both of which naturally relax your muscles. They’re also a healthy carb to help further increase those feelings of sleepiness to ease you into rest. While a banana is an awesome snack on its own, you can pair it with nut butter and toast for a more complete snack or use frozen bananas to create a nutritious peanut butter banana “ice cream.”
  • Pumpkin Seeds:
    Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium as well as tryptophan. Plus, they’re rich in another important mineral, zinc, which helps your body to convert tryptophan to serotonin. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great crunchy snack or salad topper.
  • Dark Chocolate:
    If you’re craving a little something sweet before bed, dark chocolate is a much better choice than something sugar-filled, which might keep you awake. It’s also loaded with plenty of antioxidants, prebiotic fiber, and iron, so you’re getting additional benefits. Enjoy a square or two after dinner, or make yourself a relaxing, feel-good mug of vegan dark hot chocolate. Just keep in mind to look for a chocolate bar or cocoa mix that’s low in sugar for before bed.
  • Figs:
    A great source of calming magnesium and potassium, dried or fresh figs make a great naturally sweetened snack before bed. They also have important B-vitamins, tryptophan, and omega-3’s, all of which are also beneficial for sleep. Poached figs served atop yogurt makes a delicious dessert alternative that’s full of helpful nutrients for sleep.
  • Spinach:
    In addition to being a great source of tryptophan, spinach is also high in vitamin B6, which helps your body to use tryptophan to help with relaxation and sleep. If spinach salad doesn’t suit you, you can add leafy greens like spinach to a smoothie with other sleep-enhancing ingredients like almond milk, a banana, or raspberries.
  • Raspberries:
    As well as helping to naturally satisfy your craving for something sweet, raspberries are a great source of magnesium. They’re also loaded with antioxidants and fiber, helping your body to repair itself as you sleep. Although they’re flavorful enough on their own, you can also add raspberries to a salad to add a welcome addition of sweetness, stuff with dark chocolate chips for a healthy dessert alternative, or enjoy with a handful of almonds for a balanced snack.

Serotonin-Supportive:

If you’re someone who deals with insomnia, you may have realized that what you eat before bed can play a role in how restful your night is. This is because diet and insomnia go hand-in-hand. Serotonin is an essential neurotransmitter, which helps your body to use melatonin to promote sleep. It also contributes to your mood, which is an important part of your well-being and also affects your sleep.

  • Pretzels:
    A great way to satisfy your craving for something salty, pretzels are a low-calorie carb which can help you to feel sleepy. If you’re looking for something with a little more staying power, pair them with a protein and healthy, fat-rich dip like peanut butter or hummus.
  • Rice:
    As another healthy grain you might want to consider, try having rice as a side dish with your dinner. Because it keeps your blood sugar levels steady, it can help with sleep. It’s best to opt for brown rice over white rice as it digests more slowly to help you avoid a blood sugar spike. Rice pudding is another comforting alternative that also lets you get the tryptophan boost from almond milk, and the vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavors are soothing.
  • Whole-Grain Cereal or Oatmeal:
    Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal is another great whole-grain to snack on before bed as they help to raise your blood sugar levels naturally, increasing sleepiness. Plus, oats are another food source of melatonin. Try looking for a whole-grain alternative to your favorite cereal, or prep yourself an evening bowl of oatmeal. If cereal isn’t your thing, an oatmeal breakfast cookie is a great alternative (trust us, they can be enjoyed at any time of day!)
  • Whole Grain Toast:
    Whole-grain bread also helps to raise insulin levels, which helps your brain to release tryptophan and melatonin, increasing those feelings of sleepiness. Plus, it’s easy to get creative with toppings to further upgrade your classic piece of toast: perhaps some healthy dark chocolate hazelnut spread, or avocado toast if you’re looking for something a little more savory.
  • Kiwi Fruit:
    Perhaps a surprising food choice for sleep, there’s actually good evidence that suggests that kiwi fruit is a natural sleep aid. Loaded with vitamin C, this snack can help you fall asleep sooner and sleep longer throughout the night. Kiwis work great in a tropical-inspired smoothie, atop yogurt, or combined with honey and lemon for a delicious kiwi sorbet.
  • Air-Popped Popcorn:
    Popcorn is a satisfying, low-calorie snack. Because it’s a whole grain carbohydrate, it’s great for helping with serotonin levels. Plus, there are so many ways to enjoy popcorn no matter what you’re craving. Stay classic with a little salt and butter, opt for something sweet with a dark chocolate drizzle (and perhaps some freeze-dried raspberries?), add your favorite spices, or sprinkle with parmesan cheese while the popcorn is still warm to get the tryptophan benefits of dairy.
  • Sweet Potatoes:
    One of the healthiest foods around, sweet potato is a carbohydrate that’s loaded with plenty of great sleep-enhancing nutrients like B6 and potassium. Roasted or mashed sweet potatoes make the perfect side for your dinner, but you can also bake sweet potato slices into “sweet potato toast” and top with nut butter and fruit or avocado for a different twist on traditional toast. You can also use the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes to make a dessert baked sweet potato topped with fun toppings like chopped nuts, dark chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and yogurt.

 

While the foods you eat can play a great role in helping ensure you get your much needed 8 hours a night, they’re only part of the equation. There are a number of other natural ways to help sleep. If you’ve tried our tips for better sleep and don’t notice an improvement, it might be time to take a look at upgrading your mattress. Take our sleep quiz to learn more about how to find the best mattress for your body and sleep habits.

 

Article Written by Janelle Martel

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