16 Foods That Help You Sleep

Many foods contain naturally occurring substances that bring on sleep; here are some of the best choices to help you settle down for a quality rest.

View as Slideshow

Walnuts

WalnutsiStock/ceche22
Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin, the “body clock” hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycles. Additionally, University of Texas researchers found that walnuts contain their own source of melatonin, which may help you fall asleep faster.

Almonds

AlmondsiStock/Kaan Ates
Almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep (and also a known headache remedy). A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that when the body’s magnesium levels are too low, it makes it harder to stay asleep.

Cheese and crackers

Cheese and crackersiStock/NoDerog
Old wives’ tales suggest that warm milk can make you sleepy, but the truth is any dairy product can help. Calcium (found in cheese, yogurt, milk, and these surprising sources) helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture sleep-triggering melatonin. Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements.

Content continues below ad

Lettuce

LettuceiStock/hudiemm
A salad with dinner could speed up your bedtime since lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and affects the brain similarly to opium. You can also try this brew from the book Stealth Health: Simmer three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint, and sip just before you go to bed.

Pretzels

PretzelsiStock/Maya Kovacheva
Foods like pretzels and corn chips have a high glycemic index. After eating them you'll have a natural spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels, shortening the time it takes you to fall asleep. Normally, you want steady levels to avoid mood swings and insulin resistance. But if you are looking to get rest, the blood sugar and insulin increase helps tryptophan enter your brain to bring on sleep.

Tuna

TunaiStock/traveler1116
Fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make melatonin and serotonin. Other foods high in B6 include raw garlic and pistachio nuts.

Content continues below ad

Rice

RiceiStock/Floortje
White rice has a high glycemic index, so eating it will significantly slash the time it takes you to fall asleep, according to an Australian study. In particular, jasmine rice in particular brings on shut-eye faster; research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a meal that included jasmine rice fell asleep faster than when they ate other rice types.

Cherry Juice

Cherry JuiceiStock/gresei
A glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster, according to researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester. Cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boost levels of melatonin. In the study, subjects who drank cherry juice experienced some improvement in their insomnia symptoms compared to those who drank a placebo beverage.

Cereal

CerealiStock/Oliver Hoffmann
A bowl of your favorite flakes before bed could help you get better sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The snack combines two components for getting some Zzzs: carbohydrates (from the cereal) and calcium (from the milk).

Content continues below ad

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile TeaiStock/karandaev
Steeping a cup of chamomile tea will help you sleep. According to researchers, drinking the tea is associated with an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative.

Passionfruit Tea

Passionfruit TeaiStock/karandaev
An Australian study found that drinking a cup of passionfruit tea one hour before bed helped people sleep more soundly. Researchers believe that Harman alkaloids—chemicals found in high levels in the flower—act on your nervous system to make you tired.

Honey

HoneyiStock/dawnamoore
The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily, according to nutritionist Lindsey Duncan on DrOz.com. A spoonful before bed or mixed with chamomile tea could give you a more restful sleep.

Content continues below ad

Kale

KaleiStock/YinYang
Green leafy vegetables like kale are loaded with calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Spinach and mustard greens are other good options. (More surprising calcium sources are here.)

Shrimp and Lobster

Shrimp and LobsteriStock/Juanmonino
Another good source of tryptophan, crustaceans like shrimp or lobster may bring on an easier sleep.

Hummus

HummusiStock/photobox28
Chickpeas are also a good source of tryptophan, so a light lunch of hummus and whole-grain crackers (to help the tryptophan reach the brain), could be a good way to head into an afternoon nap.

Content continues below ad

Elk

ElkiStock/vikif
This game meat has nearly twice more tryptophan than turkey breast, meaning you’re much more likely to nod off after eating it, especially with a side of carbohydrates to help the tryptophan reach the brain.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram

@kristencarney

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

@sixthformpoet

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”

@NicCageMatch

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy