Foods That Help (And Harm!) Your Sleep

Everything we put into our bodies can impact how you sleep—for better or worse.

A lot of digestion happens overnight, so eating foods that are easy on your body and have ingredients that support sleep could totally turn your night around. Cutting out certain food and adding in some new ones can help get you on the right track for better sleep.

First, let’s start with what has to go.

Caffeine You already know that coffee before bed is a bad move, but caffeine can hide in other substances as well. While it might make mornings easier, avoid these foods in the afternoon so you can get to bed (And stay in bed!) on time.

  • Coffee and tea
  • Chocolate anything (pudding, ice cream, etc.)
  • Headache and PMS remedies

High-fat foods High-fat diets are a big fad right now, but eating fatty foods too close to bed can cause stomach acid to build up during digestion and disrupt your sleep. While these foods are often healthy and great in moderation, try to keep them to breakfast and lunch so you have time to digest them before bed.

  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Dark chocolate
  • Whole eggs
  • Nuts
  • Chia seeds

Spicy foods Super spicy foods can cause acid reflux, heartburn, and stomach issues as you’re trying to relax. Avoiding them as dinner foods can help cut down on discomfort and waking up ill.

  • Hot sauces
  • Peppers
  • Spices like chili, cayenne, etc.

Alcohol A night cap is oft thought of as the perfect way to get to sleep, but while alcohol can make you drowsy, it actually leads to disrupted sleep later on. As your body metabolizes alcohol you’re more likely to stay out of REM and get less restorative sleep. You’re also likely to build up a tolerance if you rely on alcohol to sleep, meaning you have to consume more to feel the same effects, creating a pretty rough cycle.

What foods should you add for better sleep?

Now that you know what to avoid, check out foods worth adding to your diet to get better sleep.

Foods with melatonin Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps tell our bodies it’s time for bed. Eating foods with melatonin can be a good way to wind down the night and prepare your body for rest.

  • Broccoli
  • Tart cherries
  • Cucumbers
  • Olives
  • Pomegranate
  • Tomatoes
  • Flaxseed
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Oats

Foods with tryptophan You might know it as the thing in turkey that makes you tired—and there’s a reason for that! Tryptophan is an amino acid that gets turned into serotonin which produces melatonin.

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Poultry
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Onions
  • Shrimp
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Peaches

Foods with Vitamin B6 B6 helps convert tryptophan to melatonin, as well as help elevate your mood and help with mood disorders.

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pistachios
  • Lean pork
  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Flaxseed

Super Sleep Recipes

Looking for some dinner recipes to help set the tone for a great night of sleep? Combine some of those sleep-supporting foods into a perfect evening meal.

Cherry Pomegranate Acai Bowl

French Onion Soup

Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa

Lemon Parmesan Salmon and Asparagus


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Shelly Weaver-Cather
Shelly Weaver-Cather

Shelly Weaver is part of the Content Team at Tuft & Needle, leading the writing and editing of our blog. Not quite a Phoenix native, (They take that sort of thing super seriously.) Shelly has spent most of her life in the Phoenix Metro area and has no plans of leaving anytime soon. She made the unexpected jump out of wedding photography and onto T&N’s team in 2016, and found a passion for the people that keep the lights on. She still finds herself shooting in her free time, though these days there are less bridal portraits and more masterpieces of her first child, Duke, a lab-pit mix with an unparalleled love for both T&N mattress hogging and couch destroying.

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