The best and worst foods to help you sleep

Foods to help you sleep

Too many Australians are not getting enough sleep.  The Sleep Health Foundation stated that “Australia is in the grip of a sleep deprivation epidemic that is dragging down the nation’s productivity, risking safety and damaging mental health”.  Their study showed that up to 45% of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights.

We know that our diet directly impacts our health, but what about our sleep?  Research has shown that certain foods can help our bodies wind down and get some shut eye, and others do the exact opposite.  Below is a list of the best foods for sleep and ones you should avoid at bedtime.

Best foods to help you sleep

Tart cherry juice

Cherries, particularly tart cherries, aid sleep because of their relatively high melatonin levels.  Cherries are one of the few naturally-occurring foods that contain melatonin, a hormone your body produces that regulates sleep and wakefulness.  Melatonin supplements are often recommended as a sleep aid.  According to research from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester, tart cherries boost a person’s melatonin levels.  Fresh cherries are not always available, so tart cherry juice is a popular choice for most people. So, get some tart cherry juice or cherries and see if it improves the quality and duration of your sleep.

tart cherry juice for sleep


Bananas are high in potassium, magnesium and Vitamin B6.  Vitamin B6, along with tryptophan, also present in bananas, is needed for the body to make melatonin, the sleep hormone, according to an article in the Annals of the New York Academy of SciencesMagnesium and potassium are natural muscle relaxants essential for general well-being.  Bananas are also carbohydrate-rich, which helps you feel sleepy and sustains you through the night.

Banana's for sleep


Almonds make a great bedtime snack.  They are rich in magnesium, which relaxes the muscles and nerves.  A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that low magnesium levels meant people had more difficulty staying asleep.  But that’s not all that almonds offer.  They also contain tryptophan and calcium.  Calcium helps the brain convert tryptophan into melatonin, helping your body feel like it’s bedtime.  Almonds are also a good source of healthy fats and protein, which can help you maintain a stable blood sugar level while you’re sleeping.

Almonds for sleep


Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, also offer healthy doses of potassium and calcium.  The brain uses this calcium to turn tryptophan into sleep-inducing melatonin.  If snacking on kale is not your thing, add it to your dinner, and you’ll still get the benefits at bedtime.  Spinach and bok choy are other good options.

Kale for sleep


Chickpeas are another fantastic source of vitamin B6, and tryptophan needed to make melatonin.  Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate your body clock.  These little legumes are packed with B6, making them a great nighttime snack.  They are also a healthy source of protein, which will help keep your sugar levels stable overnight.  If you don’t like them alone, some tasty hummus is a great alternative.

Chickpeas for sleep

Worst foods for sleep

Orange juice

Although orange juice is a fantastic source of vitamin C, citrus fruits are very acidic.  If you are prone to acid reflux or have a sensitive bladder, this could cause discomfort that will prevent you from going to sleep.  Also, juice has little fibre and plenty of sugar, which can give you short-lived energy that prevents you from falling asleep.  Try a juice with less acid, or better yet – tart cherry juice.

orange juice


Spicy foods, such as curry, can keep you awake at night.  An Australian study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology speculated that capsaicin (the active component of chillies) affects sleep via changes in body temperature.  The body’s core temperature lowers naturally at bedtime, and hot spices raise your core temperature, making you feel more awake.  Curry is another food that can cause digestion issues, including heartburn, leaving you too uncomfortable to sleep.  Some people have also reported strange dreams or nightmares after eating curry.



There is a reason we drink coffee in the morning to wake us up.  Coffee contains caffeine, which is a central nervous stimulant that stays in the body for up to 8 hours after it is consumed.  Coffee sensitivity varies from person to person, but if you are one of the many that is wired after a cup of coffee, try to avoid drinking it after mid-afternoon.



Unfortunately, your nightcap might be doing precisely the opposite of what you intended.  Alcohol metabolises quickly in your system and causes you to wake up multiple times at night.  A glass of wine may make you feel sleepy at first, but it prevents your body from getting into the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, which is the most restful stage.  Dr Rosenberg from the National Sleep Foundation also pointed out that alcohol worsens snoring because it is a muscle relaxant.  So, if not for you, try cutting out the wine for your partner’s sake.


Energy drinks

This last one won’t come as a shock to you, but energy drinks are going to keep you up at bedtime.  Energy drinks are full of caffeine, a stimulant that will prevent you from getting to sleep and getting quality sleep.  On top of this, they are packed full of sugar, and when you eat a lot of sugar right before bed, your blood sugar climbs high and then falls rapidly as your body releases hormones to bring the levels under control.

energy drink

Please note:  This article is not to be used as medical advice.  If you are considering a sleep treatment, please consult your doctor or medical professional.  This post may contain affiliate links.

Best foods to help you sleep
Worst foods to help you sleep
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4 replies
  1. Marnie Iudica says:

    oooh I love cherries, especially now that it’s Christmas time, they are everywhere. Must give this a go as have been sleeping so badly lately!


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