The Best Foods for Sleep

Trying to unlock a better night’s rest? Back of the queue buddy. And while you’re there have a read of our guide on how your diet may be playing a role. 

woman sleeping

Let’s kick things off by saying – sleep is a complex bodily function, and there are no magic foods that will instantly ship you off to the Land of Nod. 

However, according to some research, there are associations to be made between your diet and good sleep. Take a small 2016 study in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine which found that eating high-fibre, low-saturated-fat meals was associated with deeper, more restorative sleep. A decade-long study on the effects of micronutrient inadequacy on sleep also found that those regularly enduring shorter sleep (7 hours or less) had a higher prevalence of inadequate intake for calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. 

Here we highlight the foods and nutrients then to think about when it comes to sleep. 

The best foods and nutrients for sleep


Its reputation as an energy-boosting snack may have you thinking that bananas are the last food you’d want to eat before bed. But the exotic fruit is also rich in many nutrients that may help settle you down before getting under the covers, including muscle relaxants such as magnesium and potassium. 

Bananas are also rich in vitamin B6 (one medium-sized banana can provide up to 33% of the Daily Value (DV) of this vitamin) which helps convert the essential amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls the melatonin levels in the body and helps promote better sleep.

Flaxseed (and other nuts and seeds)

Speaking of tryptophan, nuts and seeds like flaxseed, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and hemp seeds are rich in the amino acid.

A 2014 study, indicated that a tryptophan-rich breakfast and bright light exposure during the daytime raised melatonin levels in the evening, while a small 2013 study found that eating a tryptophan-enriched cereal at breakfast and dinner helped adults fall asleep faster and sleep for longer.

Tart cherries

The first difference you’ll notice between sweet cherries and their tart counterparts is the fire truck red colour of the latter. As the name suggests they taste tart and crisp, and are often found pressed into juices or dried.

Both cherry types are packed with phytonutrients to target inflammation, but there’s also been research on the potential benefits tart cherries might have on sleep. 

A small 2018 study from Louisiana State University found that tart cherry juice extended sleep time by 84 minutes in those with chronic insomnia. We wouldn’t say the research is conclusive, but it’s worth a try – especially with all those bonus phytonutrients.


One of the essential minerals, zinc is important for a whole ton of bodily functions, from helping some enzymes perform their reactions, to helping support your nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

Studies have also found zinc supplements to be beneficial for sleep, with a 2018 study looking at zinc supplementation in individuals with below-optimal zinc levels seeing improvements in subjective sleep quality and sleep onset across the subjects.

Swap refined for complex carbs 

Not all carbs are equal. In fact, a 2019 study on postmenopausal women who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates were more likely to develop insomnia. A quick reminder: highly refined carbohydrates like added sugars, white bread, white rice, and soda have a higher glycemic index and cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar. 

In contrast, women whose diet included higher amounts of vegetables, fiber, and whole fruit (not juice) were less likely to develop problems with insomnia. Remember: don’t demonise carbs, just look instead to the complex carbs found in whole grains and vegetables.

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