Iowa Sleep Blog

Diet and Sleep

Monday, February 06, 2017

What You Eat and When You Eat Can Affect Your Sleep


Written by Barbara Zorn, RN, MSN

Do you struggle to get enough sleep on a regular basis? If so, you’re in good company. More than a third of adults in the US are regularly getting less than 7 -8 hours of sleep that most people need in order to feel rested, function well, and protect their health.

What about Diet? Can dietary modification play a role in improving sleep? The answer is “yes”.



In particular, foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid that turns into relaxing brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin), whole-grain carbs, certain minerals like calcium and magnesium, and some herbs can help you get a night of sound slumber. Try these:

Half a Banana and a Hand Full of Almonds: The combination of tryptophan, carbs and magnesium can help make you drowsy. If you don’t like bananas, substitute cherries, a natural source of melatonin instead.

Whole-Grain Crackers with Peanut Butter: Another exceptional combination of tryptophan and complex carbs, which will promote sound sleep.

A Mug of Warm Milk: A small mug of warm milk before bedtime can help you sleep, thanks to milk’s tryptophan, calcium and magnesium.

A Small Bowl of Whole-Grain Cereal or Hot Oatmeal with Milk: Milk, plus the cereal’s calming carbs can make you sleepy. Choose a low-sugar cereal to avoid a blood sugar spike that could perk you up.

Half a Turkey Sandwich: Make it with whole wheat bread to get the complex carbs and a couple of slices of turkey (the most famous source of tryptophan) and you’ll be ready for bed in no time.

A Small Mug of Herbal (Decaf) Tea: Teas with chamomile, passionflower, and valerian have a sedating effect. Add a teaspoon of honey, which contains tryptophan.

Just be sure to keep your bedtime snacks on the light side and enjoy them an hour before bedtime.



Red Meat: Red Meat is loaded with proteins and fats that will keep your body hard at work all night.

Celery: Celery is a natural diuretic that will make you get up to use the bathroom more than normal.

Dark Chocolate: Although dark chocolate is the healthiest form of chocolate from an antioxidant perspective, it’s also loaded with caffeine. Dark chocolate and caffeinated drinks are foods that should be left out of before bed snacks. Cut all caffeine from your diet four to six hours before bedtime.

Spicy and/or Acidic Foods: These kill sleep efforts because they frequently cause heartburn. Lying down makes heartburn worse and the discomfort hinders sleep.

Skip the Nightcap: Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but you may experience frequent awakenings, less restful sleep, headaches and nightmares. For a good night’s sleep avoid alcohol four to six hours before sleep.

Cut the Fluids by 8 PM: Stay hydrated throughout the day, but stop your fluid intake before bed. You're sure to have interrupted sleep if you are frequently getting up to go to the bathroom.

If you practice these guidelines and still find yourself getting inadequate sleep, take our sleep quiz or call Iowa Sleep at (800-226-6084 or 515-225-0188) for questions or to schedule a consultation.