Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Are you trying to get more sleep? Many lifestyle factors affect the quality of sleep — and what you eat before bed is one of them.¹,²

Lack of sleep can negatively impact hormones that regulate your appetite. Eating bad food before bed can also contribute to insomnia, a sleep disorder. Commonly consumed nutrients and substances in the diet can interfere with the body’s ability to prepare for and carry out adequate sleep cycles¹

The good news is that diet can make a difference.

Sleep is part of your body’s normal biological cycle. 24-hour cycles known as circadian rhythms are essential to maintaining physical and mental health.³

For most people, towards the end of the day, the body begins to prepare for sleep. Changes in hormones like melatonin and serotonin allow changes in heart and breathing rates, as well as brain and muscle function, to prepare the body for rest. If everything goes according to plan, you will go through distinct phases of sleep several times a night.³

Diet affects the accuracy of these cycles. Eating certain foods can help optimize sleep stages while others can disrupt them. These disorders can contribute to waking up feeling less rested.³

These foods or the nutrients they contain have been shown to contribute to a better night’s sleep.

Sour Cherries

Adding tart cherry juice to your diet can improve sleep time and quality. Exactly how it aids sleep is unclear. However, scientists think melatonin, an important sleep hormone found in tart cherries, may play a role.⁴

In one small study, people who drank tart cherry juice for seven days had higher levels of melatonin in their urine. They also had improvements in sleep time and quality compared to pre-study values ​​and to people consuming a fruit-flavored beverage (the placebo group).⁴

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Do bananas help you fall asleep? This portable fruit gets all the credit for providing potassium, an essential mineral for proper muscle and nerve function.

But a medium-sized banana also contains 11 milligrams of tryptophan.⁵ Your body uses this compound to produce both melatonin and serotonin. Each plays a role in regulating sleep.⁶

Greek yogurt

The protein and calcium found in Greek yogurt make it a top choice to help with sleep. A low-protein diet has been linked to poor sleep quality.⁷

A serving of Greek yogurt also contributes about 15-20% of your daily calcium needs. Failure to meet daily calcium needs has been linked to poor sleep quality.⁸ Look for a Greek yogurt brand with added vitamin D, as this is also an important nutrient for sleep.¹

Tuna in a can

The omega-3 fats in this affordable protein source help fight inflammation. And here’s why it can be important for a good night’s sleep: There’s some evidence that higher levels of inflammation in the body are linked to poor sleep.⁹

Canned tuna also provides a hefty dose of tryptophan, which is involved in the production of melatonin and serotonin.¹⁰,¹¹

Some foods and drinks can wreak havoc on your sleep. Here are some of the worst offenders.


That cup of joe might be sabotaging your sleep. The stimulating effects of caffeine linger long after your morning cup.¹² On average, it can take four to six hours for the amount of caffeine in your system to halve, so it’s important to start a caffeine reduction well in advance of bedtime.¹³

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To be clear, alcohol does not help you sleep. Alcohol’s sedative effects are easily mistaken for drowsiness, but once alcohol is metabolized, it will wake you up and disrupt your sleep cycle.¹⁴ Keep alcohol consumption moderate, and if you do drink, aim for that “last call” earlier in the evening if possible. . .

High-fat foods

Digesting heavy, high-fat foods at dinner can make it harder for your body to slip into dreamland. More specifically, one review links high-fat food to poorer sleep quality, which means the amount of time you sleep in bed isn’t optimal.⁷ Another reason to only enjoy your favorite fried foods every once in a while.

energy drinks

The caffeine in these popular drinks can interfere with sleep long after you’ve drunk them. Consuming caffeinated beverages, especially energy drinks, can disrupt your sleep even six hours before bedtime.¹⁵

Spikes and falls in blood sugar, mixed with the effects of caffeine and other stimulants, put heavy drinkers at a significantly increased risk of insomnia and nervousness.¹⁶

Conscious food and drink choices can have a major impact on sleep quality, duration, and efficiency. Eat nutrient-dense foods like tart cherries and tuna to optimize sleep, and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and fried foods. Consider your diet when optimizing your sleep, and consult your doctor if you suspect more complex sleep issues.


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  15. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Effects on sleep of caffeine taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before bedtime. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-1200. Published November 15, 2013. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
  16. Nadeem IM, Shanmugaraj A, Sakha S, Horner NS, Ayeni OR, Khan M. Energy drinks and their adverse health effects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Athletic Health. 2021;13(3):265-277. doi:10.1177/1941738120949181

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