Foods That Promote Sleep and Help Fight Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

If you are having trouble going to sleep or you can't seem to sleep straight through the night, take a look at your diet. Just as there are foods that can keep you awake, there are foods that can promote sleep and reduce the effects of insomnia.

Here are a few to get you started:


Fish, such as salmon, tuna, cod and halibut have a plentiful supply of vitamin B6. This important vitamin is needed by the body to make melatonin. This is a hormone that is triggered in the body by darkness and it induces sleep. Eat more fish and your body will have the vitamin B6 it needs to make melatonin.


Almonds, walnuts, and pistachio nuts can help promote sleep. Almonds contain magnesium. When your body is low on magnesium, it is harder for your body to stay asleep. This mineral not only promotes sleep but muscle relaxation. Walnuts not only contain melatonin, they offer a good supply of L-tryptophan. This is an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin - a chemical necessary to maintain a proper sleep cycle - and melatonin (the sleep inducing hormone). Like fish, pistachio nuts are high in vitamin B6 which helps the body make melatonin. Adding these nuts into your daily intake can go far in promoting sleep.

Bananas and Cherries

Bananas are known sources for potassium. Like magnesium, potassium helps the muscles to relax. In addition to being rich in potassium, bananas also offer a good supply of Vitamin B6 and magnesium. Cherries are laced with L-tryptophan and they also boost the body's melatonin supply. Eating raw cherries or drinking cherry juice can promote more sleep. Opt for bananas and cherries as your daily fruit choice and you'll get the added benefit of better sleep.

Dairy Products

Most people know that dairy products are a good source of calcium. What most people don't know is that if your body is low in calcium you may have trouble falling sleep. Calcium reduces stress and it stabilizes nerve fibers, even those in the brain. Dairy products also contain L-tryptophan. When choosing dairy products, avoid chocolate flavored varieties as they can contain caffeine. This will counteract the sleeping properties in the milk, cheese, yogurt or pudding you consume.

Turkey, Chicken and Elk

Many people have experienced the lazy, sleepy feeling after eating a turkey dinner. This feeling is brought on by the L-tryptophan in the turkey. Chicken also contains this amino acid. Many people are surprised to learn that elk contains almost twice the amount of L-tryptophan than turkey. If game meat is your thing, opt for elk and you should have no trouble nodding off to sleep.

Oatmeal and Whole-Grain Cereals

If you are looking for a late-night snack that won't keep you up, a good option is oatmeal and whole-grain cereals. These are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals, plus you get the calcium from the milk that is added to it. Eating complex carbohydrates also works to increase the amount of L-tryptophan in the blood. This helps to induce sleep. Top your oatmeal or cereal with bananas or cherries, and your body could be well on its way to a full night of sleep.

Making small changes in your food choices can go a long way in helping you get the sleep that you need. Watch the seasonings and flavorings you use. As always, avoid chocolate, caffeine, and heavily sweetened foods prior to bed.

If you want to learn more about the simple diet and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep hygiene, feel free to enroll in my
free sleep training course.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.