15 Foods to Help You Sleep Better At Night

melatonin food to help you sleep

Quick Health Scoop

  • The best foods to eat before bed include those that contain melatonin
  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your daily sleep/wake cycle
  • Foods with melatonin include pistachios, tart cherries, bananas, and milk
  • Eating before bed is okay if you eat a light, healthy snack that includes foods containing melatonin and other foods that make you sleepy

Getting a good night’s sleep plays an important role in your overall health and well-being. But would you be surprised to know that what you eat can affect the quality of your shut-eye? You’ve probably already experienced the wake-me-up jolt of caffeine in a morning cup of coffee or the desire to nap after a big Thanksgiving dinner. But you might not associate what to eat at night with whether you can fall asleep—or stay asleep—later that night.  

So, what foods help you sleep? Conversely, are there foods to avoid before bed? Knowing which foods promote sleep and which foods might disrupt sleep can make a big difference in sleep quality.  

Food To Help You Sleep

Thanks to the different nutrients in food, some can boost your energy and alertness (great for daytime) while others can promote that sleepy-time feeling (great for evening). Many of the best foods for sleep contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body make the neurotransmitter serotonin that can be converted into the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin.1,2 Created in the body in response to darkness, melatonin plays a role in the body’s internal clock that regulates your daily sleep/wake cycle (a.k.a. circadian rhythm). 

Learn More: How Much Melatonin Should You Take As an Adult?

But what foods have melatonin? For example, are bananas high in melatonin? What about tart cherries? Is it good to eat yogurt at night? Does milk make you sleepy? A general guideline to follow for a light bedtime snack that may help induce sleep is picking items that have a mix of calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan, and B6.2 When you eat foods containing melatonin, the melatonin levels in your blood may increase. And the more melatonin present in your body, the easier it should be to fall asleep.6 

Foods that may make you sleepy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

(Listed in alphabetical order)

  1. Bananas (bananas aren’t high in melatonin, but they do contain magnesium, which can help relax the muscles)
  2. Cheese
  3. Eggs 
  4. Fish (especially fatty fish, like salmon and tuna)
  5. Kale
  6. Kiwi 
  7. Milk
  8. Nuts and nut butters (such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts)
  9. Poultry (contains tryptophan)
  10. Seeds (including flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds)
  11. Teas (herbal varieties such as chamomile and peppermint are particularly sleep-promoting)
  12. White rice
  13. Whole grains (think whole-wheat toast or oatmeal, which trigger serotonin release, which can lead to an increase in melatonin)
  14. Yogurt
  15. Strawberries

Foods With Melatonin 6, 7

Food

Melatonin (nanograms/gram)

Pistachios

233,000 ng/g DW*

Porcini Mushrooms

6,800 ± 60 ng/g DW

Green Beans

5000-6800 ng/g DW

White/Portabella Mushrooms

4,300 – 6,400 ng/g DW

Sprouted Lentils

1,089 ng/g DW

Sprouted Kidney Beans

529 ng/g DW

White mustard seeds

189 ng/g DW

Black Rice

182 ± 1.6 ng/g DW

Grapes

8.9–158.9 ng/g DW 

Wheat

125 ± 15 ng/g DW

Barley

82.3 ± 6.0 ng/g FW

Tart Cherries

14 ng/g FW

Tomatoes

15-24 ng/g FW / 250 ng/g DW

Bell Pepper

12 ng/g FW / 93 ng/g DW

* DW, based on dry weight; FW, based on fresh weight

Note: There is a range in varieties, climate and growing conditions of most foods listed, therefore their nutrient profile, including the amount of melatonin, can be inconsistent.

Foods That Keep You Awake

Once you know that foods like milk or a banana before bed may help promote sleep, you’re probably wondering which foods to avoid that may interfere with a good night’s sleep. In general, it helps to avoid eating a large meal before bedtime; Instead, if you’re hungry in the evening, eat a light, healthy snack.8 In looking at the above list, consider drinking a warm glass of milk and munching on a handful of almonds, for example. It also helps to limit the fluids you drink before bedtime to avoid sleep-disturbing trips to the bathroom.

More specifically, here are foods to avoid before bed: 3, 4, 5

  • Aged or processed cheeses (they contain tyramine, which might stimulate the brain) 
  • Alcohol (it can disrupt deep sleep)
  • Caffeine (avoid drinking after 2pm)
  • High-fat foods
  • Salami and pepperoni (they also contain tyramine)
  • Spicy or acidic foods (they can cause heartburn or indigestion)
  • Sugary beverages and sweets (such as candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream, soda, etc. as these foods may make you sleepy, but they can also make it more difficult to stay asleep throughout the night 9)

The Bottom Line

When it comes to a solid night’s sleep, one part of the equation is to know what to eat before bed and what not to eat. To help put yourself on the path to slumber, eat sleep-friendly, melatonin-containing foods, such as pistachios or tart cherry juice. Avoid sleep-disrupting foods and beverages such as alcohol, caffeine, high-fat and spicy foods, and sweets.9 You may also consider taking a melatonin supplement to help you fall asleep faster and support a healthy sleep/wake cycle.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

Learn More About Melatonin:

  • How Melatonin Affects Dreams
  • Can You Take Melatonin When Pregnant?
  • Is Melatonin Safe for Kids?

  • This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.

    †These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

    References 

    1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Five foods that support good sleep.” March 10,  2020. Accessed on: June 16, 2021. https://sleepeducation.org/five-foods-that-support-good-sleep/
    2. American Sleep Association. “Top 10 Foods That Help You Sleep.” 2021. Accessed on: June 17, 2021.  https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/top-10-foods-help-sleep/
    3. Sleep Foundation. “The Best Foods To Help You Sleep.” August 14, 2020. Accessed on: June 16, 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/food-and-drink-promote-good-nights-sleep
    4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Better Sleep: 3 Simple Diet Tweaks.” 2021. Accessed on: June 17, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/better-sleep-3-simple-diet-tweaks
    5. Cleveland Clinic. “5 Foods That Help You Sleep.” January 13, 2020 . Accessed on: June 17, 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-foods-that-help-you-sleep/
    6. Nutrients. “Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin.” April 2017. Accessed on: June 17, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409706/
    7. University of Wisconsin Integrative Health. “EASY Does It: Melatonin and COVID.” June 2020. Accessed on: June 17, 2021. https://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout-covid-easy-melatonin.pdf
    8. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Healthy Sleep Habits.” August 2020. Accessed on: June 17, 2021. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/
    9. J Clin Sleep Med. “Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep.” January 12, 2016. Accessed on: July 6, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26156950/