Foods that Help or Hinder Sleep

Health Professional

Millions of people have trouble sleeping; are you one of them? If so, then you might want to know that what you eat greatly influences how you sleep. Some foods help improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. And some foods hinder your ability to sleep at all. See which foods you need to add and which foods you need to eliminate for a better night's rest.

Foods that Help You Sleep:

  • Chamomile Tea: Recent studies have shown that chamomile extract helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep. So all those teas that are advertised as calming or soothing are the real deal if they are chamomile based.1
  • Complex Carbohydrates: The whole grains like wheat farro, oat groats, quinoa, and brown rice all contain important vitamins like Vitamin B which promote the production of important sleep chemicals in your body like serotonin and melatonin. Your brain needs these chemicals in order to enter sleep mode.2
  • Protein: A little protein, especially ones that contains the amino acid called tryptophan, can aid sleep. That means that the glass of warm milk before bed might actually be a good, natural remedy to insomnia (difficulty sleeping).

Foods that Hinder Your Sleep:

  • Simple Carbohydrates: The pasta, chips, bread, potato and white rice that you had for dinner are not going to help you sleep tonight. No, in fact, these foods will spike your blood sugar and we all know what happens when you are high on sugar.
  • Caffeine: Even though you had those three cups of coffee in the morning, your body might be craving more because of a caffeine dependency. That type of caffeine roller-coaster ride will destroy your sleep with all those ups and downs.
  • Alcohol: Sure alcohol makes you a little drowsy and helps you relax at the end of the day, but what happens when the effects from the alcohol wear off at 2 a.m... That's right, you wake up.   Again, a chemical roller-coaster wide will cause you to loose sleep every night.

If more people who had trouble sleeping paid attention and modified their diets, than less people would need artificial sleep-aids in the form of over-the-counter remedies or prescription drugs. Stop counting sheep and taking pills; remember food is medicine. Those that eat more helpful foods and less harmful foods will sleep better tonight.

  1. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11: 78
  2. Nutr Res. 2012 May;32(5):309-19