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Sleep Better by Changing Your Diet Nov 28, 2017

Foods & Habits That Help You Sleep Better

Tryptophan and its effect on the production of serotonin help people sleep better. Food sources can be used to increase the levels of these natural sleep aids. The following lists may be helpful when trying to change your diet to help your quest for better rest.


Lighter Evening Meals

The old adage – Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper still holds true today, according to an article on Discovery’s Fit & Health site. They suggest having a filling breakfast comprised of a variety of food groups including grains, protein and fruit; a moderate lunch smaller servings of grains and proteins; and  a dinner at least two hours before bed. By eating a lighter meal at night, people who suffer from indigestion or gastro reflux will be less likely to have problems when trying to rest. The harder your body is working at digesting food, the less restful you are also likely to feel. Fitness Magazine also cites research showing that skipping midday meals and overcompensating with larger suppers can throw off sleep patterns and hormones.


Earlier Evening Meals

Eat your last meal of the day early in the evening, before 8 P.M. (or 3-4 hours before your bed time). According to an article in FitSugar, people who eat later are less likely to consume enough fruits and vegetables and also consume more calories than those who eat earlier, so eating earlier might help with weight loss goals as well.


Carbs for Dinner

While avoiding high-glycemic foods is a often a goal of dieters, some research presented in Fitness Magazine suggests that eating carbs can help boost production of tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleepiness. The study cited showed improved sleep among people who consumed jasmine rice for dinner.


Don’t Starve Yourself

Very low calorie diets can make people hungry, irritable and deficient in many vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy, restorative sleep, like folic acid or iron. Fitness magazine suggests a well-rounded diet with vitamin-rich foods.


Small Nighttime Snacks

Do have a small snack an hour or so before going to bed, especially if you get hungry at night. Summarizing an article from Reader’s Digest, a combination of milk and honey or a banana may be helpful for promoting rest, as the carbohydrates in honey helps the tryptophan found in milk enter the brain. Foods highest in tryptophan include chicken, soybeans, turkey and tuna, though there are many other good sources. A light, low-sodium sandwich, protein and crackers, edamame and rice or other combinations could all be good options, but aim to keep it between 100-200 calories.  Others recommend protein-based snacks like nuts, nut butters or fruit yogurt. Experiment and see what works for you, but remember to avoid food sensitivities like dairy if you suffer lactose intolerance.



Do exercise early in the day, in natural sunlight if possible. Most people will raise their metabolism for several hours after strenuous exercise which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Exercising outdoors, running, jogging, walking will increase natural levels of melatonin, helping adjust the body’s natural circadian rhythm.


Sleep Supplements

Valerian and melatonin are considered natural sleep aids according to an article in Today and in many other sources online. Both can be used for up to 30 days by most people if you have temporary trouble getting sleep.  Both immediate and sustained release formulas are available depending upon whether you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Always remember to check with your doctor before beginning new supplements though, as they can have side effects.