Using food to improve sleep

Using food to improve sleep

by Pamela Ng 02 Jan 2020

As children, many of us were given a glass of warm milk whenever we complained of being unable to fall asleep. While it may sound like an old wives’ tale, there is some truth to milk’s ability to usher in a good night’s rest. Milk is not the only one in that camp though – here are some simple snacks that you should keep handy in the event of restless nights:



Walnuts contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps you relax. The amino acid helps to synthesise serotonin and melatonin which are chemical compounds that regulate your sleep cycle. For more restful sleep, eat a handful of walnuts before your bedtime.



Almonds are a rich source of magnesium, which is a mineral that is well-known for its sleep-boosting properties so that you wake up fresh the next morning. The dietary fibre of almonds can also help do away with any late-night hunger pangs you might have.



The calcium contained in dairy products can help to encourage feelings of sleepiness. This essential mineral is involved in the synthesis of melatonin, a compound that helps regulate your sleep cycle and allows you to rest better.



Small crunchy pretzels are convenient to leave by the bedside. They have a high glycaemic index which can elevate your blood sugar and insulin, allowing for a better expression of tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier for better sleep. Just remember not to go overboard with them!



Yoghurt is another calcium-rich food that can help you to sleep better. Try adding walnuts or almonds to your bowl of milky goodness for a one-two knockout punch that is sure to send you to beddy-bye!



Besides being a great post-workout snack, bananas can also help to induce sleep. Being rich in Vitamin B6, they help in the synthesis of the sleep hormone melatonin.



In a study, volunteers who ate two kiwis a day were able to stay asleep for an extra hour. Rich in Vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate, the kiwi fruit could be your key to a better night’s sleep.



Honey contains a natural balance of both glucose and fructose which can increase your insulin levels slightly. As a result, the brain is more receptive to tryptophan which can help to give you a more restful sleep.



Although not a dairy product, kale contains high amounts of calcium. The mineral helps the brain to use tryptophan to produce melatonin. It’s also a good source of dietary fibre, folate, magnesium and a host of other nutrients. A real superfood indeed!


Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea has been used throughout the ages (particularly in the UK) for its calming and relaxing properties. It increases glycine levels which can help calm your nerves and relax your muscles. Unlike green tea, chamomile is naturally caffeine-free, so you don’t have to worry about any nasty side effects.


While sleep may seem like a relatively simple thing, it doesn’t come as easily to everyone. Optimising your night time nutrition through a careful selection of foods can make the difference in determining whether your night will be a restful or restless one.