Nutrition Trending

Foods That Help You Sleep Better

D Tejaswi

5 min read


Have trouble falling or staying asleep? Wait, don’t pop a pill! Improve the quality of your sleep with these easy changes to your diet and lifestyle.

We have all been in that situation when we have counted all the sheep in the barn but still sleep evades us. We might be tired, but our mind is entertaining a barrage of thoughts. Here, quite a few foods come to our rescue–importantly functional foods. Foods that have a potential positive impact on health beyond basic nutrition are known as functional foods.

“There are higher functional components in functional foods promoting sleep, including tryptophan, GABA, calcium, potassium, melatonin, pyridoxine, L-ornithine and hexadecanoic acid,” says Dr Lakshmi Kilaru, Ph.D. in food science and nutrition, Head Nutritionist, URlife. Barley grass powder, whole grains, maca, asparagus powder, lettuce, cherry, kiwis, walnut, and milk are some examples of sleep-promoting foods.

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“Food sources that are rich in magnesium increase the activity of serotonin N-acetyltransferase, an enzyme in the pathway for synthesis of melatonin(a hormone essential for sleep),” adds Dr Lakshmi. Therefore, having magnesium rich foods can help you sleep better. Some food sources that are rich in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach and peanuts. To help you in our quest for a better sleep, we have made a list of some common, easily-available food items.

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Foods To Have Before Your Bedtime
  1. Chamomile tea: While tea is generally associated with alertness, this warm and soothing beverage can help you relax and sleep well. For generations, chamomile tea has been used as a traditional remedy for insomnia and stress. A study on 80 Taiwanese women states that chamomile tea may be recommended to address sleep depravity. The calming effects of the chamomile tea can be attributed to apigen, an antioxidant.
  2. Milk: While hot milk with turmeric has been our dadi’s nushka for better sleep, there is a lot of data and scientific evidence to back that milk can be used to induce good sleep. Milk contains L-tryptophan and melatonin which are both required for good sleep. Furthermore, it is also said that the psychosomatic effect of warm beverages at night makes one feel sleepy. A study published in Royal Society of Chemistry says milk is extraordinarily rich in tryptophan content.

Stay away from caffeine-rich items such as coffee, soda, ice tea before your bedtime. Caffeine delays the timing of your body clock.


  1. Kiwi: One of the most nutrient dense and low-calorie fruits, kiwi is also considered a rich source of potassium, serotonin, and antioxidants. As these minerals increase the potential of the sleep hormone, melatonin, eating kiwi before bedtime is considered both healthy as well as good for sleep. Research in the Asia Pacific Journal on Clinical Nutrition shows that kiwi can increase the sleep time by 13.4%.
  2. Tart cherry juice: The tiny red fruit is packed with lip-smacking flavour, vitamin C and potassium. A good source of antioxidants, cherries can increase melatonin in the body, which can be useful in increasing sleep quality. A study conducted over a 2-week period on older adults found that tart cherry juice increased the sleep time by 84 minutes.
  3. Avocados: Consuming avocados can increase your serotonin levels. This fruit has high amounts of monounsaturated fat that helps induce sleep. Avocados are also rich in magnesium making it a great sleep aid.
  4. Sunflower Seeds: These seeds provide essential amino acids that help create melatonin. Sunflower seeds, also, are an excellent source of magnesium, which also plays a role in sleep quality.

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Generally, foods rich in antioxidants, potassium and anti-inflammatory agents can increase the serotonin and melatonin levels in the body. Hence, these foods can be attributed to better sleep quality. Furthermore, “having a balanced diet, exercise and stress-free lifestyle can help set the circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality,” adds Dr Lakshmi. She further explains on foods to avoid before bedtime.

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Foods to Avoid Before Bedtime
  1. Alcohol: Do not consume alcohol before bedtime as it interrupts the natural sleep cycle of the body. In addition, alcohol decreases the amount of restorative REM sleep that you get.
  2. Caffeine: Stay away from caffeine rich items such as coffee, soda, ice-tea six hours before your bedtime. Caffeine delays the timing of your body clock.
  3. Sugary foods: Say no to sugary foods. The thumb-rule is to avoid sugary foods at least two hours prior to your bedtime.
  4. Sugar stimulates the body and provides a lot of energy—something that you do not need when you are about to sleep.

  5. Tyramine-rich foods: Avoid tyramine-rich foods later in the day. Tyramine is an amino acid that occurs both naturally in the body and is also found in certain foods. But consuming tyramine-rich foods at night can cause the brain to release a natural stimulant that fuels brain activity. This can make falling asleep more challenging. Tomatoes, soya sauce, eggplant, red wine and aged cheese are rich sources of tyramine.
  6. Gassy foods: Gassy foods such as beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts can keep you up late.
  7. High-fibre fruits and vegetables: Though these are great for your body, these do not help fall asleep; try to avoid them before bedtime. Some examples of high-fibre foods include cauliflower, broccoli, beans and brussel sprouts.
Other Tips To Help Maintain Healthy Sleep Cycle
  1. In general, it is preferable to go to bed at night and wake up early each day. This type of sleep regimen, however, may not be suitable for everyone. To maintain a good quality sleep time, you can go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  2. Finish your meals 2-3 hours before your bedtime. It gives time for your body to settle down and relax.
  3. Expose yourself to morning sunlight and evening darkness for at least 10 minutes. It helps set the body’s internal clock.
  4. Maintain an optimal level of hydration. Studies find that fluid intake can contribute to better sleep and overall health.
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