What to Eat (and What Not to Eat) Before Bedtime

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Our sleep is strongly influenced by what we eat and the quality of our diet. Follow these pointers to make sure you're eating the right food at the right time.

Good evening food #1: Poultry

Poultry tends to be a lean meat and chicken and turkey contain high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Keep the portion small, though: too much protein at night can make sleep more difficult.

Good evening food #2: Brown rice

Foods that contain high levels of complex carbohydrates may help you fall asleep faster. Furthermore, brown rice also contains high levels of sleep-promoting magnesium and vitamins B3 & B6.

Good evening food #3: Spinach

Spinach is high in tryptophan, magnesium, and vitamin B6 — all of which help create serotonin, which promotes calmness and drowsiness.

Good evening food #4: Whole wheat pasta

Whole grains are a great source of magnesium and B vitamins, which help the body absorb tryptophan. Look for the phrase "whole grain" at or near the top of the ingredients list.

Good evening food #5: Yogurt

Milk and yogurt contain high levels of melatonin, tryptophan, and calcium. You can boost the level of high quality carbohydrates by adding a banana, too.

Bad evening food #1: Steak

High fat and high protein foods are best avoided close to bedtime as they can take longer to digest and affect serotonin production, resulting in heightened levels of alertness.

Bad evening food #2: Chili

At night, our digestive system slows. This makes it harder to digest meals, so beans and other foods that can cause gas, heartburn or indigestion are best avoided.

Bad evening food #3: Spicy condiments

One study found that those who consumed mustard and hot sauce with their evening meals took longer to fall asleep and spent more time awake at night. This may be a result of the effect spices can have on our body temperature.

Bad evening food #4: Ice cream

The high levels of sugar and fat contained in ice cream put additional stress on the digestive system. Studies have confirmed that high sugar and saturated fat intake is linked to less restorative sleep and more night time awakenings.

Bad evening food #5: Chocolate

The double-whammy of sugar and caffeine act as a stimulant to the body, making it harder to relax and fall asleep. One ounce of dark chocolate can contain as much as 12mg of caffeine!

Quality and balance

Knowing how your body responds to certain foods can be helpful when it comes to improving your sleep. However, eating a varied and balanced diet is the absolute best way to give your body everything it needs for good sleep health.

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.