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The Best Foods For Improved Sleep

Eating more of these foods regularly may improve sleep patterns so you feel more rested.
man sleeping naked on stomach in bed at home,

Getting enough sleep each night is vital for your health, but there are several factors that can interrupt quality sleep. For example, you might involuntarily follow an inconsistent sleep schedule (maybe you work the night shift several nights a week) or drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol too late in the day or well into the evening. Or maybe you routinely go to bed on an empty stomach. All of these circumstances can interfere with your sleep cycle. But the foods you eat during the day and near bedtime may be able to help you get a better night's rest.

However, as Cedrina Calder, MD, Preventive Medicine Doctor, and Health and Wellness Expert points out, "There isn't strong scientific evidence that identifies any particular food as being the best for sleep. Instead, eating a healthy and balanced diet that provides all of the nutrients your body needs is better for optimizing your sleep."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inadequate sleep or lack of quality of sleep is associated with several chronic diseases and conditions, including heart disease, depression, and even type 2 diabetes. An estimated 1 in 3 American adults does not get enough sleep which is characterized as seven hours or more each night. However, the need for quality of sleep may outweigh length. After all, the length one needs to sleep each night can vary from person to person.

For some, sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea can inhibit their ability to receive quality sleep each night. While a balanced diet likely won't resolve these issues, it may help an individual with or without these conditions sleep a bit more soundly.

Together, Calder and Cynthia Sass, RD, CSSD, LA-based performance nutritionist, provided insight on which kinds of food you should be eating during the day to promote better sleep at night.

Here are the best kinds of food Calder suggests could improve your sleep.

Ensure that you're getting enough protein in your diet.

High protein foods animal plant various protein sources

"Higher-protein diets have been associated with improved sleep compared to low-protein diets," says Calder. "Choose mainly lean sources of protein to limit your intake of saturated fat."

Try incorporating more turkey into your weekly dinners, for example. Just three ounces provides 26 grams of satiating protein and no saturated fat. Turkey also contains L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body uses to create niacin, or vitamin B3, which then helps produce the chemical serotonin and the hormone melatonin, both of which are associated with sleep.

Foods that are high in protein and also contain L-tryptophan are:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs

Eat more complex carbs and high-fiber foods instead of simple carbs.


"Complex carbs and fiber help increase the ability to stay asleep and decrease daytime sleepiness," says Calder.

A few examples of complex carbs include starches such as:

  • Grains
  • Potatoes
  • Beans

On the other hand, examples of simple carbs would be a sugar-laden product like soda and fruit juice from concentrate or even packaged, and often highly processed treats such as cookies and candy bars. "Simple carbs, on the other hand, have been associated with increased fatigue and are likely to cause a disruption in sleep," Calder explains.

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While a glass of traditional grape juice from concentrate would be considered a simple sugar, a glass of 100 percent fruit juice does not fall under that category, and one particular kind of fruit juice is believed to help enhance sleep.

"Drinking 100 percent tart cherry juice one hour before bed has been shown in research to improve sleep time and quality," says Sass. "In one study, sleep time increased by 84 minutes."

The dietitian also points out that tart cherry juice fights against inflammation in the body, with research backing its ability to reduce muscle soreness and both total and harmful cholesterol levels (LDL).

RELATED: Your guide to the anti-inflammatory diet that heals your gut, slows the signs of aging, and helps you lose weight.

Try incorporating a glass of tart cherry juice into your bedtime ritual if you are having trouble staying asleep.

Eat a diet that consists of healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds, and oils.

Omega 3 fatty acids foods

"Some studies suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the ones found in fish, may improve sleep quantity and quality," says Calder.

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Canola oil
  • Flaxseed oil

In fact, one study from the journal Scientific Reports found that increased fish consumption was associated with not only improved cognition in children, but also reduced sleep disturbances. Salmon, in particular, is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, and flax and chia seeds are good sources as well.

Incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Fruits and veggies

"Consuming an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables—along with lean protein, whole grain carbs, and healthy fats—will help you to get the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients your body needs," says Calder. "A number of micronutrients may help to improve sleep, including B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, and tryptophan."

There is one specific fruit that may be linked to better sleep. Sass says there appears to be a correlation between regular kiwi consumption and better sleep.

"Research has found that eating kiwi on a daily basis is tied to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and quantity. In one study, men and women who struggled with sleep disturbances ate two kiwis one hour before bed over a four week period. Sleep diaries and wristwatches that measured sleep revealed that the kiwi eaters fell asleep over 35 percent faster, slept more soundly, and experienced a 13.4 percent increase in total sleep time," says Sass.

Scientists believe kiwi's high antioxidant levels and ability to elevate serotonin synthesis may be attributable to its positive effects on the sleep cycle.

This list of food and drink puts the supposed soothing effects of a warm glass of milk before bed to shame. Try implementing these foods into your diet for a more restful sleep.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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