Foods that help you sleep through the night

The food and drink choices we make can affect our sleep in big ways. Avoiding caffeine and heavy meals at night is a good first step but some foods and drinks can actually help you fall asleep faster and deeper. 

Most food’s effect on sleep revolves around helping your body produce and suppress two key hormones that affect our energy levels, serotonin, and melatonin: 

  • Serotonin is a hormone we produce that has a multitude of functions, impacting everything from our mood to our bowel movements, and very importantly, it stimulates our brain’s center for controlling sleep and waking.  
  • Melatonin is another important sleep-related hormone. Our bodies produce or suppress melatonin based on the time of day. 

As with all things, moderation is key – having too much serotonin or melatonin can trigger other health issues but too little can make it difficult to get enough, quality sleep. Below you will find a list of foods that help you sleep through the night. 

Best foods to help you sleep

The following is a list of common foods which contain useful nutrients that can help towards better sleep. It does not claim to be exhaustive. Also please note that chronic insomnia is a condition that requires medical intervention.

Meats and fish

foods that help you sleep through the night

Turkey contains tryptophan – an amino acid only found in food and drink. Tryptophan helps your body make serotonin which in turn helps your body make melatonin. Chicken also contains tryptophan.

Fish, especially salmon, tuna, and halibut, are high in vitamin B6. B6 helps the body convert tryptophan into serotonin.  


warm milk

Yogurt – or anything dairy – contains calcium, which helps your body process tryptophan and melatonin. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are also calcium-rich foods to try.

Warm milk can be a good choice if you’re not so keen on tea. Its calcium content will boost tryptophan and melatonin levels. Moreover, the nostalgia associated with warm milk at bedtime as a child could make a warm cup of milk part of the perfect bedtime routine. 

Greens & grains 


Read more: The Importance of our Circadian Rhythm

Whole grains help in a few different ways. These complex carbohydrates increase serotonin and reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits sleep. It is also a good source of magnesium, a natural relaxant that can help you stay asleep. 

Soybeans together with whole grains are consistently associated with better sleep according to a 2019 study

Tart cherries contain a high level of melatonin, as do some other fruits, such as bananas, pineapple, kiwis, and oranges. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like berries, plums, red cabbage, artichokes, and beets can have similar effects by combating oxidative stress on your body, thereby helping you both fall asleep and stay asleep faster.

Natural remedies for sleep


Honey lowers orexin levels, a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes you more alert. Try adding a spoonful of honey to your favorite non-caffeinated tea to wind down before bedtime. Chamomile, mint, and ginger are some popular choices.

There are many other natural remedies for sleep which you can read about here

Take good care of your sleep hygiene

Whether you want to focus on your dinnertime choices or indulge in a sleep-healthy bedtime snack, try some of these foods that help you sleep through the night. Remember, having a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine is just as important as what you eat. Also, make sure to abstain from caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.