Proven Foods to Help You Sleep or Make You Sleepy (Science Based) – Cherries, Bananas and More

royal ann cherries

There are certain foods that help you sleep because they affect certain hormones in the brain that help induce sleep. Foods that make you sleepy include bananas, warm milk, cherries, and oatmeal. These types of foods are good to eat before bed because they help regulate sleep, relax your mind, and can result in a calmer, more enjoyable night’s rest.

The reason why some foods promote good sleep is that they increase sleep-regulating chemicals such as melatonin and serotonin. Other foods that help you sleep contain important minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and calcium that help improve sleep quality. As well as eating foods that help you sleep, you should also avoid some foods before bedtime that stimulate the mind and prevent falling asleep quickly.

In this article, you will learn about the bests foods that help you sleep based on scientific evidence. You’ll also learn about good snacks to eat before going to bed.

Why Certain Foods Can Help You Sleep

Most of us are aware that consuming certain types of foods or drinks before going to bed can affect our sleep. Obviously, foods and drinks that include caffeine are not the best foods to have before bedtime.

Research published in the journal Advances in Nutrition found that diet can affect your ability to fall asleep fast and your sleep quality. For example, people who consume a well-balanced diet including fruits and vegetables tend to enjoy better sleep quality. Other studies indicate that foods in the Mediterranean diet help reduce instances of insomnia. (1)

Some studies have shown that it’s good to drink warm milk before bed because it can increase levels of the melatonin hormone (a hormone that regulates the sleep patterns). Some nighttime milk-based drinks are also fortified with vitamins and minerals to help promote good sleep. (1)

Some researchers have discovered that certain nutrients in foods help promote good sleep whereas others can make falling asleep more difficult. (2, 3)

Other studies have shown that cherries help you sleep better because they contain melatonin and tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to increase serotonin and melatonin, sleep promoting brain chemicals. (1)

Eating a banana before bed can help you sleep because it contains potassium and magnesium that are natural muscle relaxants. Bananas are also a good source of tryptophan which helps to increase levels of the sleep promoting chemicals serotonin and melatonin.

Many doctors and dieticians agree that diet can improve sleep quality and certain foods can help you fall asleep quicker.

The Best Foods for Sleep (Backed By Science)

If you want to fall asleep faster or enjoy a better night’s rest, you should get lots of ideas from the list of foods below. You will learn why foods such as oatmeal, kiwifruit, bananas, almonds, and turkey can all enhance your sleep quality.

Foods That Boost Melatonin Help You Fall Asleep Faster

Melatonin is a hormone produced in your brain that affects your sleep patterns and improves sleep quality.

Scientists have identified a large number of foods containing melatonin that positively impact sleep. Research has shown that consuming melatonin-rich foods can help improve symptoms of sleep disorders such as insomnia. Good sources of melatonin from food include eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, tart cherries, and legumes. (15)

Eat tart cherries to help you sleep

Tart cherries are one of the most concentrated sources of melatonin, so you can eat cherries in all forms: fresh, dried, frozen or as a juice.

Tart Cherries (Prunus cerasus) and tart cherry juice have sleep-inducing effects and may help make you sleepy before bedtime.

The Journal of Medicinal Food reported that tart cherry juice can help resolve problems of falling asleep. The pilot study found that consuming tart cherry juice helped elderly persons get to sleep easier and sleep better. Symptoms of insomnia improved after a 2-week period. Scientists also noted that the effect of tart cherry juice on sleep was comparable to valerian – a well-known herb that is good for sleep. (16)

Another study have also found that tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels and improve sleep quality and duration in both men and women. (17)

Other melatonin-rich foods

The journal Nutrients reported that other foods containing good amounts of melatonin include milk, pigmented rice (e.g. black or purple rice), grapes, cherries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms. (41)

Foods Containing Tryptophan Are Good to Eat Before Bed

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found in milk, oats, red meat, and eggs. Researchers have found that tryptophan stimulates the production of serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) in the brain. (4)

Scientific evidence points to the fact that tryptophan-rich foods help improve sleep quality and reduce the number of sleep disturbances. (5)

The fact that tryptophan is an essential amino acid means that you need to get it from your diet. You actually only need a small amount of tryptophan to meet your recommended daily intake of 425 mg. Some good sources of tryptophan to eat 1 to 2 hours before bedtime include turkey, milk, bananas, tuna, and peanuts. (6)

Drinking a glass of warm milk may help you fall asleep faster as it also contains high levels of tryptophan. At the end of the article, you can find out if drinking chocolate milk before bed is recommended for a good night’s sleep.

Eat bananas during the day to sleep better

One study found that eating bananas for breakfast can actually help you sleep better at night. Researchers found that banana consumption helped to increase melatonin (brain chemical that helps to regulate sleep) secretion at night. This was due to the fact that bananas are vitamin B6-rich foods with good levels of tryptophan. (7)

Learn more about the many reasons to eat 1 or 2 bananas every day and why banana skins are good sources of antioxidants.

Turkey contains tryptophan and may help you fall asleep

Another food that can help you sleep because it contains tryptophan is turkey. One study suggested that consuming 300 g of turkey daily helps to improve the time it takes to fall asleep and boosts sleep quality. (8)

The fact that turkey is a good source of tryptophan is actually a scientific reason why you may feel sleepy after eating a meal containing turkey.

Eat oatmeal before going to bed

We usually think of oatmeal as a healthy breakfast option. However, oatmeal is a healthy snack to eat before bed because it can improve sleep. Oats contain good levels of tryptophan that boost sleep-enhancing compounds in the brain.

Researchers have suggested that consuming cereals containing tryptophan such as oats can improve sleep efficiency and increase sleep time. (35)

Foods That Increase Serotonin

Foods that help to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are good for helping you fall asleep faster. Scientific research has revealed that serotonin (5-HT) is important in regulating the sleep/wake cycle. Serotonin promoting foods affect sleep because they help initiate sleep and maintain peaceful sleep. (9, 10)

The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience reported that certain foods can increase serotonin levels in the brain. (11)

Doctors from WebMD say that foods that boost serotonin include complex carbs like oats, fruits, whole grain foods, and nuts. You should also avoid foods that contain caffeine because they may suppress serotonin levels. (18)

Serotonin promoting foods are important for sleep because they help to also increase levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Eat nuts such as walnuts or almonds before going to bed

There is some evidence that nuts are some of the foods that have sleep-promoting effects.

For example, researchers found that almonds contain tryptophan that may help to increase serotonin levels. While there are no direct studies showing that almonds make you sleepy, studies show that almonds help to enhance the metabolism of serotonin in the brain. (12)

Other studies have shown that walnuts have a sleep-enhancing effect. Walnuts contain good levels of serotonin and the sleep hormone melatonin. (13)

Eat kiwifruit for good uninterrupted sleep

Eating 2 kiwifruits about an hour before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy improved sleep quality.

Researchers found that kiwifruit is good for sleep because it contains serotonin. One study showed that 2 kiwifruits in the evening can help make you sleepy and sleep longer with fewer sleep interruptions. (14)

Find out more about natural serotonin supplements that can also help you sleep better and help prevent depression.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D Found in Oily Fish Promote Good Sleep

Including foods in your diet that are rich in omega-3 and vitamin D don’t just improve your heart health but can also help you sleep better. Some good sources of omega-3 and vitamin D that promote good sleep are salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines.

One study involving 95 men found that regularly consuming oily fish resulted in better sleep patterns. In general, consuming fatty fish such as Atlantic salmon helped men fall asleep faster when compared to chicken, pork, or beef. The reason why salmon was good for sleep is that it contains vitamin D and positively affects fatty acid levels in the blood. (19)

Other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish and vitamin D help to increase serotonin levels in the brain. This can help to manage symptoms of depression and also improve sleep patterns. (20)

There is also some scientific research showing that vitamin D itself can help boost the quality of your sleep. Scientists suggest that older men ensure they have adequate levels of vitamin D to prevent sleep problems. (21)

Learn more about how taking omega-3 supplements can boost your health. Because omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D help you get better sleep, this also has a direct effect on your immune system that can be weakened by sleep deprivation. (22)

Foods Containing Magnesium and Zinc Help You Get to Sleep

Consuming foods such as seafood, legumes, avocados, nuts, and seeds can help you sleep better because they are natural sources of zinc and magnesium.

There is a direct connection between zinc and magnesium-rich foods and melatonin levels. One clinical trial involving 43 people with insomnia found that taking a supplement containing magnesium, zinc and melatonin helped people fall asleep faster. Participants in the trial took the magnesium and zinc supplements 1 hour before bedtime to help deal with insomnia. (23)

Because they are rich in magnesium, bananas can also help you get to sleep. One medium-sized banana contains 32 mg of magnesium which is 8% of your recommended daily intake. (24) Another reason why bananas are good for sleep is the flesh and banana peel contain tryptophan that helps boost serotonin levels which, in turn, impact on melatonin. (25)

Good sources of magnesium are: dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), fish, legumes, whole grains, avocado, bananas, plain yogurt, dried fruits and dark chocolate.

Good sources of zinc are: seafood, beef and lamb, beans, nuts and seeds, wheat germ and dairy products.

Consuming adequate amount of magnesium is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.

Foods with Calcium May Help Induce Sleep

Milk and yogurt are good foods to eat before going to bed to help sleep better because they contain calcium.

Researchers have found that calcium-rich foods are among the functional foods that promote sleep. Calcium affects neurotransmitters that have a positive role in helping you sleep. Studies also indicate that calcium deficiencies can also result in insomnia and poor sleep quality. (26)

The fact that milk is a rich source of calcium and also contains melatonin makes it one of the best drinks for getting to sleep.

Chocolate could help make you sleepy

Consuming some dark chocolate could help you sleep better because it contains the compound theobromine.

Researchers have found that, even though dark chocolate does contain some caffeine, it doesn’t keep you awake at night. They identified the compound theobromine which helps improve sleep duration. The researchers said that cacao consumption doesn’t cause sleep disturbances. (27)

However, results on the effect of chocolate on sleep patterns are mixed. Some researchers point to the fact that the caffeine and sugar content in chocolate could prevent sleep as it can act as a stimulant. So, it is probably best not to eat chocolate an hour or two before going to bed. (40)

Learn more about the many health benefits you can enjoy by consuming more dark chocolate or drinking delicious cacao drinks.

Drinks That Are Great for Getting to Sleep

If you are looking for natural ways to fall asleep fast, then there are some healthy drinks to help you sleep.

Many herbal teas contain relaxing compounds that reduce stress to make falling asleep easier. Some healthy drinks also increase levels of serotonin in the brain that help you sleep.

Green Tea is a Drink That May Help You Sleep

Enjoying 2 or 3 cups of refreshing green tea throughout the day could help you get to sleep at night.

Scientists have found that compounds in green tea affects serotonin levels and help to reduce stress. (28)

Because green tea contains caffeine, it may not be the best drink to consume before going to bed. However, the journal Nutrients reported in 2017 that green tea with reduced caffeine content helps to improve sleep quality and also has an anti-stress effect. (29)

Warm Milk to Help You Fall Asleep

Drinking a cup of warm milk before bedtime may help you get to sleep quicker if you feel awake in the evening.

As already mentioned in this article, milk contains tryptophan which helps boost levels of serotonin. This process, in turn, helps produce the sleep-enhancing hormone melatonin.

However, some studies suggest that proteins in milk may hinder its ability to stimulate serotonin. (30) So, should you drink warm milk before going to bed if you need to fall asleep fast?

Researchers have discovered that consuming high-carbohydrate foods and low-protein foods make tryptophan more accessible. (31) This means that you can make your own sleep-enhancing drink by combining a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of raw honey.

Learn about another scientifically proven drink that can help you fall asleep fast.

Chamomile Tea Can Help You Sleep

Chamomile is a wonderful relaxing herb that may help you fall asleep in no time at all.

Scientific research about chamomile has found that chamomile drinks act as a mild sedative that can treat insomnia and various sleep problems. Drinking chamomile tea before bedtime can also help improve sleep quality and help you feel more relaxed in the morning. (32)

Some studies show that chamomile has a moderate effect in helping to improve sleep disorders such as insomnia. (33)

To drink chamomile to help increase sleepiness, put 1-2 teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers or a tablespoon of the fresh herb in a cup of boiling water. Cover and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Consume the chamomile drink 30 minutes before going to bed to help make you feel sleepy.

Learn about many of the other proven health benefits of consuming chamomile including improving your digestion, losing weight, and boosting immunity.

Passionflower Tea Can Make You Sleepy

Although drinking passionflower (Passiflora) tea won’t make you fall asleep in 5 minutes, it will help you get to sleep faster.

One clinical study found that the sleep-promoting effects of passionflower tea help improve sleep in humans. Researchers concluded that passionflower tea has many sleep benefits in people who suffer from occasional poor sleep quality. (34)

Make a cup of passionflower tea to help you sleep by putting 1-2 teaspoons of dried flowers in a cup of boiling water. Cover for 10 minutes to prevent the volatile oils from escaping. Take the drink 30 minutes before going to bed to help drift off to sleep easier.

Valerian Tea Can Make You Sleepy

Valerian root is used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment, and is a common ingredient in products promoted as mild sedatives and sleep aids. This herb improves the quality of sleep and helps fall asleep faster. Dried roots are prepared as teas or tinctures, and dried plant materials and extracts are put into capsules or tablets.

One medical study concluded that valerian could improve insomnia.

The recommendation is not to use valerian with other sleep aids. Start with the lowest dose, then increase over several days’ time. Valerian is considered safe to take for four to six weeks.

Banana Cinnamon Drink for a Better Sleep

The minerals and amino acids in a banana help relax your body. Bananas contain the minerals potassium and magnesium which serve as muscle relaxants, which in turn helps your body feel ready to fall asleep.

Banana also contains tryptophan and is also a source of serotonin which has general sedative effects.

A small scientific study published in the Journal of Pineal Research found that blood levels of melatonin (sleep promoting hormone) rose significantly about two hours after eating a banana.

1 medium banana, cut into pieces
1 cup of water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. honey (optional)


Blend the ingredients until thick and smooth.

Note – you can replace the water with milk but then you must add the honey which is low in protein and high in carbohydrates. This will help the tryptophan in milk cross into the brain as per the study I mentioned previously in the article.

Proven Essential Oils to Help You Sleep

There are many essential oils that can help you get to sleep faster and treat insomnia. Scientific studies have revealed that essential oils such as lavender, valerian, chamomile (and many more) can help you fall asleep faster.

Foods to Avoid Before Going to Bed

If you want to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep during the night, it’s important to avoid foods that prevent sleep. Just as some foods help you sleep, so there are some foods and drinks that will keep you awake.

Caffeinated drinks and food containing caffeine. Scientists advise not to consume anything with caffeine in it for a minimum of 6 hours before going to bed. Caffeinated products will keep you awake and interfere with sleep quality. (36)

Alcohol. Although small amounts of alcohol can act as a sedative, consuming large amounts of alcohol can result in poor sleep quality and disrupted sleep patterns. (37)

Eating late in the evening. Consuming late-night meals can interfere with your nighttime sleep. However, researchers have found that small, low-calorie snacks in the evening can be beneficial to your muscle synthesis and morning appetite. (38)

Unhealthy evening snacks that keep you awake. A study found that snacking on low-fiber, high sugar, and high saturated fat foods in the evening results in light sleep and frequent awakening during the night. (39)

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