What to Eat or Drink to Help You Sleep

by Clay McNight

Foods that are natural sources of melatonin, such as fish, can help you sleep better.

beti gorse/iStock/Getty Images

Getting better sleep can simply mean eating more of the right foods. Some of the foods known to improve sleep simply provide the right amino acids, which trigger the production of hormones that help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Other foods contain vitamins or other substances that promote sleep. Some of the more noted foods and drinks that can help you sleep better include fish, cherries, chamomile tea, bananas, milk and spinach.

Fishing for a Good Night's Sleep

Salmon, halibut and tuna are three foods rich in vitamin B-6, a necessary precursor to melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that induces sleep. When buying salmon, it's preferable to choose wild salmon over farm raised, as it will be higher in omega-3 fats as well as vitamin D, another nutrient that may promote a good night's rest. According to David McCarty, M.D., there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency-associated diseases and certain sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

The Power of Cherries

Cherries are of one the only foods found in nature that actually contain melatonin. When cherries are not in season -- 10 months out of the year -- you can still get your natural melatonin fix with dried cherries and tart cherry juice. Eating cherries about an hour before bedtime may help you sleep better.

A Tea for Zzzzs

Chamomile tea is a well-known for its usefulness as a mild sleep aid. According to a 2010 paper published in “Molecular Medicine Report,” the tranquilizing effects of chamomile may be because of a flavonoid it contains called apigenin, which affects the brain. Chamomile has been used to treat insomnia, induce sedation and has been reportedly used in the treatment of general anxiety disorder, which is a condition that can cause sleeplessness.

Bananas for Relaxation

Bananas are sources of potassium and magnesium, two natural muscle relaxants. In addition, bananas are a source of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is eventually converted by the body into melatonin and seratonin. Serotonin is a "feel-good" neurotransmitter known to have calming and relaxing effects.

Warm Milk for Comfort

Milk contains both of the sleep promoting substances L-trypophan and melatonin. Milk is also high in calcium, another nutrient that may have sleep-inducing properties. The temperature of the milk does not change its nutritional values, though warm milk may be more comforting for some people before bedtime.

Calm Restless Legs with Spinach

If you have restless legs keeping you awake, spinach may may be just the thing for you. Spinach is a vegetable rich in iron, a nutrient that can help protect against restless leg syndrome, according to “The Sleep Doctor” Michael Breus, Ph.D. Other iron-rich foods that may have the same effect include meats, poultry and legumes.

Our Everyday Video

Brought to you by LEAFtv
Brought to you by LEAFtv

Photo Credits

  • beti gorse/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.