Having trouble falling asleep is a challenge for some that is as old as time.
However, the new technological age is making it even more difficult for some to get those zzz’s easily 😴
We’ve put together a list of the best foods to eat before bed to make it just that little bit easier for you to get a good night’s sleep.
Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or avid meat eater there is something on this list for you 🥗 🥩
We’ve also thrown in some recipes and helpful hints that will make your bedtime routine a little bit smoother.
To give you a quick overview, here are the food groups we cover:
Bananas are not only a super convenient and easy snack, but they’re also perfect to grab on the way to bed.
These handy sleep helpers contain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and the vitamin B6, all of which aid in producing a good night sleep.
Bananas also have tryptophan which produces melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a sleep inducing hormone.
Basically, as melatonin goes up, your desire to party on through the night, goes down!
Like bananas, these tasty bite-sized treats contain melatonin.
Increasing melatonin before bedtime is not only going to improve your quality of sleep, but if included regularly in the diet, will also aid in regulating the sleep cycle process
What does this mean? It means, you’ll be able to sleep a little quicker than usual.
Summer hack ☀️
During the warmer months of the year, put some grapes in the freezer. They serve as a perfect sweet cool down before bed!
Despite crushing those late night sugar cravings, figs also contain magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.
They’re also high in fibre which aids in curbing those cravings all together!
Why do these matter? 🤷🏽♀️
Good question. These goodies help increase and regulate blood flow, which is imperative when falling asleep.
Perfect as a sweet treat before bed, in a smoothie 🥤 or on toast, these goodies are perfect in the quest for catching some extra zzz’s.
Just like the other fruits, these bite sized treats are also high in calcium, B6 and magnesium.
Forgotten why these are important?
These are essential in developing melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Try making your own trail mix with some different nuts, seeds and prunes - yum!
Not only is watermelon the most delicious fruit of all (our opinion), its sleep regulating properties is a little different to the other fruits.
Firstly, it's all in the name! This fruit contains mostly water!
Not only is it going to help hydrate you before bed, but when you’re properly hydrated it means you’re less likely to have those late night cravings.
Also, the high fibre content is going to help in suppressing the munchies, the last thing you need when trying to get a good night’s sleep!
Kiwi Fruit 🥝
A study conducted in 2011 concluded that consuming a Kiwi fruit before bed allowed the participants to fall asleep 42% quicker than when they didn’t have anything to eat before bed.
Not convinced? 🤔
After consuming these low cal treats (42 calories), participants' total sleep time increased by 13% and their sleep disruption reduced by 5%.
Still not convinced?
Kiwis contain properties that induce serotonin and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. These two factors are both super important in regulating the sleep cycle and ensuring a good night's sleep!
Cherries (Cherry Juice) 🍒
These little nuggets of sweetness are again, high in melatonin.
The key ingredient in regulating sleep. Like grapes, they’re the perfect in combating those sweet cravings.
But you don’t need to eat as many cherries to give you the same level of melatonin as you would grapes. Efficiency? Yes please.
Find cherries too finicky to eat? No problems.
Cherry juice is going to be just as effective in giving you that melatonin hit you need before bed. This is also super handy considering cherries are only in season 2 months of the year!
Herbs and Vegetables
Sweet Potato 🍠
Trying to avoid carbs?
Carbs are not only super important for long term health, but carbs serve as the body’s primary source of energy. Sweet potatoes contain complex carbohydrates which help promote sleep.
They also provide the body with a good dose of potassium, perfect for relaxing muscles.
Tip: Sweet potato chips serve as a perfect snack before bed. Easy, convenient and delicious.
Spinach really is a superfood. You can incorporate this powerhouse during a dinner salad, sauteed on toast or even in a smoothie (yum)!
Firstly, spinach gives you a good dose of magnesium before you sleep.
Forgot why you should care about magnesium?
It supports brain function 🧠, helps distribute and regulate nutrients to the different organs in the body and contains sleep inducing tryptophan.
Still not convinced?
Spinach is also a great source of calcium, so if you’re lactose intolerant or even vegan.
It can be a great dairy substitute to ensure you get that dose of calcium your body needs.
Maybe not the most popular veggie, but when it comes to inducing sleep:
This underdog is really one to get on top of.
Cabbage is high in calcium (a natural sleep aid) and magnesium, important for relaxing the muscles 💪🏽
Cabbage is also high in vitamin C.
This herb, whilst generally used as a garnish (particularly in France) packs the potassium punch you need before bed.
Tarragon also has many digestive properties and has heaps of antioxidants which are important in ensuring your body is well rested when it comes time to catch some z’s.
How to eat it?
Perfect as a garnish on any white meat 🍗
But our favourite way?
We love it in a bernaise sauce… perfect for those cooler months of the year!
Okay, we admit it, lettuce may not be the ideal snack before bed. However it’s an effective one.
Lettuce contains the phytonutrient, lactucarium.
This almost impossible to pronounce nutrient helps promote sleep, relieves pain and helps promote relaxation.
Not sure how to sneak it in before bed? We’ve come up with a few ways:
- Much on it with some peanut butter (don’t knock it until you try it!),
- Quick salad 🥗 (we recommend throwing in some cucumbers, tomatoes and avocado, and,
- Boil lettuce (preferable Romane) and make your own tea!
Kale, a well known superfood and a powerhouse of health benefits has also proven to be beneficial for sleep!
With just one cup of chopped kale containing 10% of daily B6 intake and loads of potassium, magnesium and calcium. It's perfect for inducing melatonin.
Not the biggest fan of kale? We get it, it's a taste that can require some adapting to.
Try kale chips. These treats are readily available at any supermarket, however we recommend making your own - it's really too easy!
Substitute your movie night snack for these bedtime goodies!
Fresh Herbs (Sage and Basil)
I grew up with the smell of napolitana pasta sauce 🍝
My mother is Italian and Greek and this smell is iconic of my mum’s house.
For me, it’s a personal favourite. Either in soup or pasta, nothing beats a rich sauce full of herbs.
Herbs contain stress reducing nutrients that are essential for sleep.
The best part is, it's super easy to incorporate herbs into any dinner dish.
Seeds, Nuts, Grains and Legumes
Firstly, almonds are the perfect bedtime snack. They are low in sugar and saturated fats, but high in good fats (good for your heart, cholesterol and overall health).
Almonds are also high in… you guessed it, melatonin! In case you forgot, this chemical is the one that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycle.
Not yet convinced to choose these bite sized goodies as your bedtime snack?
Almonds are also super high in magnesium and calcium. Both vital in relaxing your muscles before sleep, hence promoting a good night's worth of zzz’s 😴
Maybe not the most popular nut, but it should be. They are packed with over 19 essential vitamins and minerals.
Walnuts are packed with the sleep-enhancing amino-acid tryptophan (helps make serotonin and melatonin).
They’re also a good source of protein which is particularly helpful when trying to reduce your appetite before bed!
They’re also high in good fats, which can help contribute to overall heart health and lowering cholesterol 📉
If you find it difficult to snack on walnuts by themselves, try them in some greek yoghurt topped with some honey and cinnamon!
Sometimes the process of eating is half the fun. Who doesn’t love cracking these green little guys from their shell?
We should also note, eating pistachios from the shell will also help prevent eating them in excess. Eating too much before bed is not a great idea when trying to sleep.
They’re also really rich in:
- Protein (Perfect for curbing late night cravings)
- Vitamin B6 (Helps the body use and store food) and
- Magnesium (relaxes the muscles)
White Rice/ Jasmine Rice 🍚
Jasmine rice is a super affordable, available and versatile dinner choice to help you get a good night’s sleep.
It is high on the glycemic index meaning that it slowly reduces glucose into the bloodstream over a long period of time.
A 2007 study found that having a serve of jasmine rice 4 hours before bed halved the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep. The study concluded that foods with a high glycemic index increase the production of tryptophan.
Brown rice is full of protein and is a complex carb.
What does this mean?
Proteins contain tryptophan (the good stuff that induces the sleep hormone) and complex carbs help deliver the tryptophan to the brain. Perfect combo 👌🏽
Complex carbs are also a good idea to eat before bed because they break down slowly, which helps curb blood sugar cravings and spikes when sleeping.
One of the tricky things about brown rice is how to cook it.
Cooking brown rice can be easier than expected. Click here 👈🏼 to find out just how easy!
Oats are a staple in many homes and it’s no wonder why. Oats are jam packed with tryptophan. As a good source of complex carbohydrates, the brain finds it easier to convert tryptophan to serotonin when the source of it comes from complex carbs!
Oats also contain B3, which aids the conversion process.
Looks like oats are #teambrain 🧠 if you ask us.
Oats also provide a good source of B1 one which aids in reducing stress and supporting the body's immune system. Both vital in ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Oats are also high in melatonin, which is going to help prevent you from waking up frequently during the night 🌙
What’s the harm in waking up a few times in the middle of the night?
Consistent interrupted sleep can impact our ability to make decisions, think clearly and affect our overall emotional stability.
If you ask us, oats are going to help with more than just a good night's sleep!
Quinoa is going to be super beneficial to eat before bed. Firstly they’re a great source of protein and magnesium, helping to relax muscles and keep you full throughout the night.
Also, as quinoa is a complex carbohydrate.
This means it's going to slowly release glucose throughout the body preventing those sugar spikes and drops, that can keep us awake throughout the night.
Struggle cooking grains?
Quinoa is perfect for you. It cooks quickest of all the grains, and can be a perfect substitute for rice or an addition to any salad!
Barley Grass Powder
Barley grass is the leaf of the barley plant 🌱
Barley grass powder, is you guessed it, a powdered form of this grass plant.
You may have heard of it in the context of juices, smoothies and if you ever mosey on into your local health food store.
But barley grass powder is also super beneficial in helping support a good night’s sleep.
Firstly, it's super nutrient dense, high in Vitamins A, B, C and K. Its also high in antioxidants, helping reduce stress and helping combat chronic diseases 👊🏿
Barley grass is also high in GABA, calcium, potassium, magnesium and tryptophan making it a powerhouse of sleep inducing nutrients.
Wait… what’s GABA? 🤔
GABA is a neurotransmitter which helps slow down the brain’s thinking, and helps you fall asleep.
Despite the fact it's a perfect natural potion of sleep inducing goodness, it can be an acquired taste.
We suggest adding it to a smoothie. Try adding some bananas and milk.
Alternatively, many people take it in its pure form as a shot - bottoms up!
Beans are high in the B’s (particularly B6 and B12) both helping to regulate your sleep cycle, and increasing serotonin levels naturally. Helping get a solid night's sleep.
But the real show stopper when it comes to beans, is their fibre content.
A study in 2016 found that participants who ate meals with higher fibre content, had longer sleeping periods than those who didn’t.
The same study also found that those who didn’t consume as much fibre, struggled in getting enough restorative sleep (stages of deep sleep where the mind and body undergo the most renewal).
Perfect on their own, in the form of a dip or as addition to almost any meal, consider substituting your bedtime snack for chickpeas.
Chickpeas are a great source of fibre, protein and carbohydrates (the good kind).
They’re going to help keep you full throughout the night, and help keep you settled for a good night’s sleep.
However, the real star nutrient when it comes to chickpeas is its B6 content.
B6 helps convert tryptophan into serotonin, then melatonin. The magic ingredient in getting a good night’s sleep ✨
Additionally, healthy levels of B6 contributes in encouraging a sound sleep cycle. Meaning better quality sleep and a clearer head.
Whole Grains (In General)
Grains are the seeds that come from plants called cereals (seeds from grass plants). Some common ones you may have heard are wheat, corn and rice.
The whole grain family is loving and inclusive, and because of this some pseudocereals (including buckwheat and quinoa) are also considered wholegrains.
Whole grains are high in vitamins, fiber, protein and antioxidants.
Not only the recipe for combating heart disease, strokes and diabetes but also for sound sleep.
They contain magnesium and GABA. Helping relax muscles before sleep, and helping slow down the brains thinking.
We should note that whole grains aren’t for everyone. People with celiac disease, who are gluten sensitive and IBS should avoid whole grains or consult with their doctor 👩🏿⚕️ before frequently incorporating them into their diet.
Hemp milk is made by soaking and grounding the plant seed, hemp, in water.
It is incredibly similar to cow’s milk in its flavour, texture and aesthetic. Which makes it a perfect substitute for dairy.
Hemp is not only a great source of plant protein, but also includes:
- Calcium and
All really important for allowing your body to function in the best possible way, so it can have a restful night's sleep.
Peanut Butter 🥜
Peanuts are high in tryptophan.
Yes, that key ingredient in helping out brains create our sleep hormones.
Having peanut butter on toast before bed could be the ideal concoction for having a good night's sleep.
The protein and tryptophan from the peanuts, and the carbohydrates from the bed mean that you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
It's important when opting for peanut butter (or any nut butter) for that matter, going for one that is all natural.
The sugary content in processed nut butters is not only going to keep you up, but also make you more prone to sugar spikes and crashes throughout the night.
Low-Fat Cottage Cheese 🧀
Growing up, my mum would always eat cottage food when she wanted a quick snack and I never really understood why.
Cottage cheese contains a protein case casein. It releases amino acids slowly through the body, helping aid in muscle recovery.
If you’re someone who goes to the gym, or is keen on building and keeping muscle, cottage cheese will also help prevent muscle breakdown overnight, as you go a relatively long period of time without eating.
Unless you have the midnight munchies 😋
The high amount of protein in cottage cheese is also going to help keep you full throughout the night.
Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, meaning that protein rich foods are going to keep you fuller for longer.
Yes, your fav brekkie staple has been proven to also be a great night time staple for getting a good night’s sleep.
Eggs are one of the highest sources of melatonin, which yep, you guessed it:
Is that magic ingredient in getting a good night’s sleep.
Being deficient in nutrients and minerals such as B1, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin D, iron and zinc will shorten sleep duration. All of these goodies are found in eggs 🥚
Dietitian Sharon Natoli recommends having eggs 2 hours before bed. Having them boiled, and on their own as opposed to having them in a larger meal is going to be more beneficial in reaping all their sleep inducing benefits.
She also highlights having large meals before bed can have the adverse effect of keeping you up during the night.
If you want to sleep at night, keep your meal light!
Fatty Fish 🐟
A 2017 study found that there is a direct link between frequent consumption of fish and sleep quality.
This study was conducted on Chinese school children and also concluded that due to the high levels of omega-3 found in fish, cognitive function was improved.
Does this mean the kids who consumed fish regularly are smarter? 🤓
If you mean that they scored higher on IQ tests, then actually yes, they did!
Omega-3 has been linked with improved brain function. High levels of omega-3 are also associated with being able to sleep faster, longer and with less interruptions.
The study concluded that whilst the participants consumed fish regularly, incorporating fish into your diet once a week can give your body the levels of omega-3 it needs to support good sleep.
Apart from the fact salmon is high in omega-3 (that thing good for brain power), salmon is also high in B6.
B6 is great for producing that sleep inducing hormone we haven’t stopped speaking about.
More than this, it is an amazing source of protein, which is great for keeping you fuller for longer. Perfect for preventing those late night trips to the fridge!
Don’t know how to squeeze some salmon in before bed?
We recommend smoked salmon on crackers, or even on their own.
Try pairing smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers. Thank us later.
Like salmon, tuna is also jam packed with B6:
That magic ingredient that helps in the production of melatonin.
Tuna also contains selenium.
Sele - what? 🤷🏼♀️
A deficiency in the mineral selenium causes issues around sleep. A 2008 study showed that participants who were deficient in selenium suffered from sleep difficulties, non-restorative sleep, daytime sleepiness and sleep maintenance difficulties.
Turkey is different to other forms of meat when we compare it to its levels of tryptophan, one of the key aspects of protein. The body can’t manufacture tryptophan on its own, so it needs to source it from foods like turkey.
Because turkey is packed with tryptophan, some people claim after eating turkey, they feel drowsy.
However, we’d like to know if this drowsiness is a part of a massive thanksgiving lunch that also includes mashed potato, gravy, creamed corn, stuffing (yum) and any other thanksgiving goodies.
We’d like to note, we’ll never discourage a thanksgiving feast, but what we’re saying is that turkey won’t cause you to snooze during the middle of lunch after eating it.
Enjoy that thanksgiving food coma, but don’t blame it on the bird!
Before I became a frequent eater of tofu, I was unsure as to what tofu actually was. So let me help out those of you who don’t know.
Tofu is made from curdled soybean that is pressed and solidified.
Soy (the core ingredient in soy) is incredibly rich in tryptophan. A study in 2011 found that consuming soy milk before bed had a sedative effect on participants who drank it before bed.
Unsure of how to incorporate tofu into your diet? Try it:
- In a stir fry
- In a salad or
- In patties
Malted Milk/ Warm Milk 🥛
The old wives tale that having a glass of warm milk before bed will help you sleep is as old as time itself. If there’s one thing I've come to learn, is that sometimes these adages have some truth to them.
Warm milk contains tryptophan and melatonin:
A perfect sleep inducing combination.
More than this, psychologically we associate warm drinks with relaxation 💆🏻♂️
This is exactly what we want before bed. Drinking something warm before bed is an often encouraged part of developing sleep hygiene.
Milk also helps you to feel fuller before you sleep, but not so full that you’d experience discomfort before sleeping.
If you drank warm milk as a child to help you sleep, this may serve as a soothing memory and allow you to instantly feel relaxed by just even starting the process of warming up the milk!
Yoghurt contains calcium.
Why should you care about calcium?
Calcium is the brain's best friend when it comes to tryptophan. It helps the brain produce melatonin and serotonin.
Find yoghurt difficult to stomach? Try it with some fruits, nuts and maybe a little honey!
Yoghurt is also high in probiotics - just what you need for a healthy gut. They are going to help keep your tummy healthy and happy, the best thing for a good night’s sleep.
Before you rush out to buy yoghurt, make sure you consider the following:
- Check the sugar content - excess sugar could cause crashes or spikes whilst sleeping 📈📉
- Try Greek yogurt and sweeten it with fruit
- Combining the yoghurt with carbs like granola can help clear your blood of other amino acids (helping the tryptophan reach the brain quicker)
For centuries chamomile tea has been used across many parts of the world as a remedy for insomnia and anxiety.
The calming and sleep inducing effects of chamomile tea can possibly be attributed to the high levels of apigenin, found in chamomile.
Apigenin is abundantly present in many fruits and herbal teas, making them anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, antibacterial, helpful in controlling blood pressure and antiviral properties.
Let’s simplify it.
Apigenin helps receptors in the brain that help induce sleep and decrease anxiety.
Like chamomile tea, passionflower tea has been used throughout time as a remedy for sleep issues.
In Native American tradition, passionflower has not only been used to help get a good night's sleep, but also to remedy boils, wounds, earaches and liver issues.
In Europe it is used to assist with anxiety, agitation and restlessness - highlighting its perceived calming effect.
Perfect for sleep.
Whilst the current research on passionflower is not extensive, and more research is needed for us to be able to conclusively speak of its benefits - it's definitely worth a try.
What we know for sure though, is that passionflower is high in GABA:
That compound that helps decrease brain activity, making it easier for you to quiet your mind and fall asleep.
Lemon Balm Tea
Lemon balm is typically native to Europe, North Africa and West Africa 🌍
It’s a lemon-scented herb that comes from the mint family.
Lemon balm tea has been found to relieve anxiety and stress, and those who participated in a 2004 study, reported increased calmness and less alertness 🚨
The exact effect you want when trying to fall asleep.
When combined with valerian, lemon balm is especially effective in inducing sleep. Valerian is a perennial plant that is generally found in Europe and parts of Asia.
Research has found that when combined with valerian, lemon balm, 70-80% of participants reported an improvement in their insomnia.
Having a calming and sleep inducing effect are not the only manners in which lemon balm will help you get a better night's sleep.
Whether you’re needing a good night’s sleep, or need to relax after a big meal - give lemon balm tea a try.
Ginger tea maybe isn’t for everyone, but when mixed with a dash of honey - not only do you have something super yummy, but a bedtime drink that’s going to help you settle better into a good night’s sleep.
Ginger is well known for aiding in digestion, helping relieving tummy aches before bed.
If you’re someone who gets seasick (I am 🤢), you’ll know that ginger also has anti-nauseating properties.
It does this by releasing anti-inflammatory properties, aids in improving digestion and releases blood-pressure regulating hormones which helps calm your body and reduces nausea.
Whilst ginger doesn’t contain tryptophan or any other mineral that directly induces sleep, it definitely has effects that help you get a restful night's sleep.
Valerian, a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia is another powerhouse in the sleep inducing tea game.
Due to the compounds in this magical flower, valerian has an almost sedative like effect on the brain and nervous system.
Whilst the evidence on using valerian as a sleep aid isn’t overwhelming, the research that shows its benefits demonstrates that it can help its drinkers fall asleep 15-20 minutes faster ⏰
Valerian is most effective when ingested 2 hours before bed.
Research indicates that valerian may also improve not only the duration of sleep, but also the quality of sleep.
Hops are the flowers that grow on the hop plant.
Firstly, hops are really easy to grow from home - they grow easily on fences, trellises or arbors. This means that if you like to grow your own fruit and veg, hops are a perfect option for you.
Using hops as a sleeping aid, is probably its most common use.
Hops also contains GABA - helping to regulate anxiety and has calming effects on the brain.
Hops are beneficial for the digestive system, helping ease any tummy issues you may have before sleeping.
Research has also shown that hops are great for reducing stress and anxiety.
Happy tummy + happy mind = a good night's sleep!
Other Sleep Inducing Goodies
Honey stands true to its name of liquid gold. It's not only something that is super tasty, but is particularly valued for its general healing properties. In Islamic tradition they say that honey is a remedy for every illness!
But how does honey help remedy sleep issues?
It helps produce melatonin in the brain, which in turn helps you get a better night's sleep.
Honey also helps top your liver’s glycogen levels.
When your glycogen levels are low, your liver sends a message to your brain telling it that you need to eat something 🤤
When you’re sleeping and haven’t eaten for several hours, you’re going to need to top up these glycogen levels to ensure that you don’t wake up at midnight for a sneaky snack.
If you struggle to have honey on its own, try it:
- With Greek yoghurt, walnuts and cinnamon
- In one of the herbal teas we suggested
- In milk
- With some warm water
Bowl of Cereal 🥣
Like having a glass of milk before bed, many children grow up having a bowl of cereal before bed - which many of them as adults will claim, help them sleep.
Despite a bowl of cereal containing milk (another great food source that helps you sleep), cereal contains carbs. Obviously.
But this means that your body is going to be able to absorb the tryptophan from the milk (and bananas if you fancy) much quicker than without the carbs.
Again it's important you consider what cereal you're eating. Making sure it's not packed with sugar is important, not only for overall health but also in trying to avoid those sugar crashes and spikes.
Who doesn’t love crackers? Nobody.
You can have crackers on their own, with dips, cheese or even some of your favourite veggies.
Crackers, if they’re wholegrain they contain complex carbs which help deliver the tryptophan to your brain, making it easier for your brain to produce the hormones you need to sleep.
They also help keep you full throughout the night 🌙
Research recommends that the best time to consume complex carbs before bed for optimal sleep is 2-3 hours before bed.
Fewer middle eastern dishes are more popular than hummus, and it's no wonder why. Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpeas, which is the basis of this dish.
Its basic ingredients include chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini and garlic.
In recent times it's been spiced up with chillies, beetroot, pumpkin and other earthy veggies.
Hummus has three key benefits when understanding it as a sleep aid.
- Its rich in tryptophan (Helps the brain produce melatonin and serotonin)
- High in B6 (Aids in regulating your body clock, important for your sleep cycle)
- Rich in folate (Great for regulating sleep patterns)
Hummus can be eaten on its own, as a part of a meal or even on a piece of toast 🍞 !
Try making your own hummus - it’s easier than you think!
There are so many options that are available for those night owls who want to be just a little bit less ‘owly’.
Consuming complex carbs, foods that are rich in protein and good fats are going to help your brain in producing melatonin and serotonin.
It's also really important to remember considering sugar content when having these bedtime snacks.
Whilst sugar is tempting and convenient to have right before bed, it's going to be your goodnight sleeps worst enemy 🙅🏾♂️
Whether you prefer a warm beverage, a light snack or a meal - we’ve made your job easy. All you have to do is decide your weapon of choice!