Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Changing Your Diet Can Improve Your Sleeping Habits

Posted by Lewis Robinson on Jan 11, 2021 5:07:00 AM

young woman shopping for fruits and vegetables in produce department of a grocery store supermarket

Eating well and exercising regularly are important for staying healthy. Yet getting enough sleep may be just as valuable. Poor sleep can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Sleep may also improve your immune system and promote brain health.

Of course, getting enough sleep is often easier said than done. While most people should get between seven to nine hours of sleep per night, many people get less than that. In fact, approximately 33 percent of Americans report that they do not get enough sleep.

There are several possible causes of sleep deprivation. Some people forgo sleep due to their busy work schedules or family responsibilities. However, your diet may also be responsible for your insomnia. Foods and beverages are heavy in caffeine, for instance, can make it hard to fall asleep at night.

However, other foods include nutrients and hormones that help you sleep.  Below are some foods that can help improve your quality of sleep.

Complex Carbohydrates

You have probably heard that simple carbohydrates are bad for you. Eating too much pasta, breads and sugary desserts could cause you to gain weight. These foods may negatively impact your sleep, as well.  That is because they reduce the amount of serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a hormone that promotes healthy sleep.

Take advantage of Nucific offers and purchase supplements that reduce your cravings for sugary snacks. If you cannot live without carbohydrates, opt for complex carbs such as oatmeal or whole-wheat toast. These foods actually promote the release of serotonin and thus help you fall asleep. They also do not take long to digest. This is important because digestion typically slows down as you sleep.


Brown rice is another alternative that is healthier than pasta or white bread is. Yet even white rice may have some sleep-related benefits. One study in Japan found that those who regularly consumed rice reported better sleep quality compared to those who ate more noodles or bread.

White rice also has a high glycemic index. The GI measures how certain foods affect blood glucose levels. Research shows that eating foods with high GI levels a few hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep more quickly. White rice contains plenty of other nutrients, as well, including thiamine, manganese and folate.

Lean Proteins

High-fat meats and cheeses are tough to digest, which can negatively impact your sleep. Instead, opt for leaner proteins such as turkey, fish, low-fat cheese and chicken. Many of these foods contain the amino acid tryptophan, which promotes the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin tells your body that it should get ready to go to sleep. This tryptophan explains why you often feel so tired after a big Thanksgiving meal.

The protein in these meats may also improve your quality of sleep. Research shows that eating moderate amounts of protein before bedtime may cause you to wake up less frequently during the night.

Certain fish, including Atlantic salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. These nutrients also help regulate serotonin levels so you can establish a healthy sleep cycle. One study even found that those who consumed 300 grams of Atlantic salmon three times per week fell asleep more quickly compared to those who ate beef, pork or chicken. In fact, one study found that poor sleep quality was associated with low fish intake.


If you crave a snack before bedtime, try munching on some nuts. Almonds have many health benefits and could even lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

These nuts may also help you sleep better, as well. They contain both melatonin and magnesium. Magnesium may improve your quality of sleep by reducing stress hormones and inflammation.

Walnuts also contain magnesium, melatonin and serotonin. The calcium in almonds and walnuts may help your muscles relax, as well.


Fruits in general are very healthy. Kiwis and tart cherries are particularly effective for those looking to improve their sleeping habits.

Kiwis contain numerous vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium and vitamins C and E. They may even reduce inflammation and cholesterol.

Research shows that kiwis could also help you get more sleep at night. One study in particular found that those who ate two kiwis an hour before going to bed fell asleep more quickly. The total amount of time that they spent asleep increased by 13 percent, as well. While the exact reason for these benefits is unclear, it is likely related to the serotonin and antioxidants in the fruit.

If you prefer more sour fruits, try eating some tart cherries before bedtime. Studies suggest a positive correlation between cherry consumption and improved sleep. This may be due to the presence of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can regulate sleep. Tart cherries also feature serotonin, tryptophan, melatonin, and another other sleep-promoting nutrient, potassium.


A healthy diet does not just mean eating properly. What you drink is important, too. It should thus come as no surprise that some beverages are better for your sleeping habits than others are.

Skip caffeinated beverages in the evening. Alcohol should be avoided, as well. While booze may help you fall into a deep sleep, its effects may wear off during the night. You could thus wake up when your body is supposed to be going through the restorative sleep stages.

If you enjoy snacking on tart cherries, consider drinking tart cherry juice at night, as well. It contains plenty of melatonin that encourages sleepiness and combats insomnia.

Certain herbal teas can also promote better sleeping habits. Chamomile tea, in particular, contains an antioxidant called apigenin. Apigenin may activate certain receptors that encourage sleep. In fact, one study found that women who drank chamomile tea for two weeks had improved quality of sleep.

Passionflower tea also contains apigenin along with other antioxidants. Passionflower also may stimulate the production of a brain chemical that inhibits certain stress inducers.

Even a glass of warm milk can help you fall asleep. Just the thought of drinking warm milk may let your body relax and prepare for bedtime.  However, the milk also contains plenty of melatonin and tryptophan. Malted milk may be particularly effective for combating sleep problems.


If all else fails, try eating a simple salad for dinner. Both lettuce and its seed oil may have mild sedative effects.

Skipping out on a few hours of sleep may be tempting, especially if you have a busy lifestyle. However, sleep allows your body to relax and gives you the energy you need to get through each day. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, try eating or drinking some of the above foods.

Some Final Words

Most are aware that getting a good night's sleep can make a significant difference in how they feel, but they may not realize how big of an impact their eating habits have on their ability to fall asleep at night. However, by doing things like avoiding sleep-disruptors like caffeine and alcohol and also paying attention to the times you. are eating, you can help improve your sleep quality, and your overall health, too.

A good quality sleep may seem difficult to come by, but tweaking your diet is one of the very best ways to achieve this. Avoiding the food that keeps you awake and restless, and adding foods that promote a healthy sleep cycle will have you falling asleep peacefully in no time.

For all your sleep troubles, Alaska Sleep Clinic has a blog with answers you are looking for to your health questions. Sign up to receive ASC's daily sleep blog below. Our website received over 5 million visits last year alone, making one of the top 5 sites in the world for sleep education.

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Topics: diet, nutrition, getting beter sleep

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