How great would it be to be able to eat a quick snack in the evening and effortlessly drift off to sleep, then wake up in the morning feeling totally refreshed? It may sound like a dream, but there are a number of foods that are believed to actually promote sleep and, as a bonus, are usually also really nutritious. These amazing foods are available at your local supermarket, so you can grab them on the way home and whip up a tasty dinner that may help you get a better night’s sleep.
However, improving your sleep with the help of these kinds of foods requires a little research and experimentation. There’s the question of not only what to eat, but also when and how much. But who doesn’t love a little culinary adventure? Here, we’ve put together some information and recommendations for foods that induce sleep.
Article Overview: Delicious ways to get better sleep
What and when you should eat before sleep
Don’t get too hung up on “should” here, because we’re all different. To find out what works best for you, listen to your body, rely on your own experiences and, most of all, be open to trying new things.
So first, there’s the all-important question: Is it bad to eat before sleeping? For some, the onset of digestion makes them drowsy, and they find it easy to sleep soundly after a small meal. But others will struggle with uncomfortable heartburn that makes it impossible to relax, much less lay down. If there’s one thing everyone tends to agree on, it’s that fatty or hard-to-digest foods are a no-go if you want to sleep well. Fast food, fatty meat, and even cruciferous veggies like cabbage should be avoided before going to bed.
The next burning question: How long before sleeping should you eat? Most people can get by having their last meal about two-to-three hours before bedtime, but it’s better to finish heartier meals around four or five hours before. On the other hand, going to bed hungry is a bad idea, as the drop in blood sugar can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. If you’re the type of person who tends to burn through fuel quickly, eating an apple shortly before bed can keep your blood sugar stable through the night.
Speaking of fruit, before hitting the details of sleep-inducing foods, we need to mention a real sleep superhero: the banana. The humble banana is the ultimate pre-sleep food because it contains both magnesium, which relaxes muscles, and vitamin B6, which the human body needs to produce the sleep hormone melatonin.
What’s the deal with melatonin?
The body produces melatonin itself and can also absorb it from food. Melatonin levels regulate how tired we feel, usually making us feel sleepy at night and awake in the morning. A permanently low melatonin level is associated with sleep disorders, impaired memory and even depression. Studies  suggest that higher melatonin levels also help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
This is why it makes sense to look for foods that either contain melatonin, or the building blocks the human body needs to make it. These compounds include tryptophan and vitamin B6, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Below is some key information to remember when combing the aisles for the best food for a better sleep.
The main types of sleep-inducing foods for adults
- Foods containing melatonin: Many foods contain melatonin, but usually only in small amounts. A few that rise above the rest are pistachios, cranberries, tomatoes, some cereals (like corn and oats), peppers, and some types of mushroom.
- Foods containing tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that is involved in melatonin production. You can find it in foods like cheeses, meat, and pulses.
- Foods containing vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is found in meat, but also in fish, which is usually easier to digest.
- Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids: Fish is a powerhouse of these important fatty acids, but nuts and whole grains are good sources as well. Vegans in particular should make sure they’re getting enough omega-3 in their diet.
- Foods containing magnesium: Magnesium helps muscles relax and contributes to normal nervous system function. Pumpkin seeds, green vegetables, nuts, and the superstar banana all contain significant amounts of magnesium.
So what’s on the menu for a good night’s sleep? How about fish and a leafy side salad for dinner, and a pre-bed snack of oatmeal topped with cranberries and pumpkin seeds? A side of chickpea-packed hummus, or a banana and yogurt smoothie for dessert? This is where you can maximise your creativity to get a good night’s sleep.
What should you drink before sleeping?
Drinking things before bed can be risky business, so it’s important to know your body. While it’s often recommended to drink water before sleep to avoid dehydration, for some people that’s a guaranteed way to have a rough night, with sleep interrupted by trips to the toilet. You probably know your bladder well enough already, so listen to your body and avoid beverages from whatever time is best for you.
With that covered, let’s look at some popular sleep-inducing drinks and how they can help promote a better night’s rest.
Does warm milk help you sleep?
Everyone knows warm milk as a sleep remedy, and you’ve probably been coaxed to try it at one point in your life by a parent or grandparent. But does warm milk really help you go to sleep?
At first glance, the science seems to work out on this one. Milk contains both melatonin—the sleepiness regulator—and tryptophan, which is needed to produce melatonin. Yet only very small amounts of each are actually present in milk, and there has yet to be any scientific proof that drinking warm milk is good for sleeping.
But this doesn't mean that there isn’t something to your grandmother’s warm milk and honey recipe, as there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence in support of it. The situation is similar to CBD and sleep. Solid scientific evidence is still lacking here too, but many people have positive experiences that suggest a connection between the two. Warm milk may also still be one of the best drinks before sleep because of the way it makes you feel comfy and cosy.
What teas are good for sleep?
There are plenty of teas for sleep available at the chemist and on the internet. Most are herbal blends with a mixture of plants that are supposed to make it easier to sleep. But what are the best teas for good sleep?
Typical sleeping aid teas contain valerian, camomile, lavender, lemon balm and passion flower. These plants have a long history of use in folk medicine, and still often form a component of herbal medicines that are used for calming or sleep improvement. As for the science, the calming and sedative effects of valerian have been proven in several studies , and research into passion flower has turned up similar results .
Despite this, there is still not a clear scientific basis for the positive effects of tea before sleep. Tea may not have the same effect as an extract of the plant itself, and teas are simply not at the top of scientists’ priority lists. But it can still be worthwhile trying out different sleeping aid teas, as the preparation ritual itself can be calming and help you get a better night's sleep. You can find out more about this in our guide to falling asleep better and sleeping through the night.
Bonus tip: Rooibos tea may not have any proven effects on sleep, but some people tolerate it better than black or green tea. It's also caffeine-free, making it a good addition to a relaxing bath in the evening—maybe together with one of our CBD bath bombs?
Ultimately, when it comes to getting better sleep, these kinds of sleep-inducing foods alone are not enough to compensate for poor sleeping habits. The next step to getting serious about sleep is improving your sleep hygiene. But save some space in your routine for that banana!Sources:
 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8843534/ retrieved 18.03.2021  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10761819/ retrieved 18.03.2021  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21294203/, retrieved 18.03.2021