A Nutritionist’s Top 5 All-Natural Foods for Better Sleep—and Why They Work

Photo: Getty Images/elenaleonova
When it comes to pre-bedtime snacks (and late-night dinners), some foods are known to be sleep disruptors while others are linked to drifting off more soundly. Our culture has long turned to wine or over-the-counter meds as sleep aids, but the truth is, they aren't the best solutions for helping your body get that all-important REM sleep. (Especially booze—sleep experts are not fans of nightcaps.) As for what actually works when it comes to foods for sleep, Well+Good Wellness Council member and nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, CDN, has a few tricks up her sleeve.

Considering that her clients include Drew Barrymore, Hilary Duff, and Kerry Washington (to name a few), she's definitely used to working with majorly busy women, giving them the intel on what foods will promote both good sleep and provide them the energy they need to power through their days. She recently shared a graphic highlighting her five all-natural sleep aids, four foods and one nighttime beverage.


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The best foods for sleep, according to certified dietitian and nutritionist

1. pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse because they're full of vitamins A and C, with a healthy amount of fiber. Snyder eats them at night because of their high magnesium content. "Magnesium is a calming nutrient, linked to better sleep," she says. Eat a handful of pumpkin seeds as is, or blend them into a smoothie for a pre-bedtime sip.

2. brown rice

Sometimes late-night dinners are unavoidable. Synder recommends making brown rice part of your meal if you eat after a certain hour. "Brown rice is loaded with tryptophan, an amino acid that helps get the brain in a relaxed state, similar to melatonin," she says. Other foods with tryptophan that have a similar effect include turkey, salmon, eggs, tofu, lentils, and spinach.

3. dark chocolate

Dark chocolate contains magnesium, too. "Try to stick to just one ounce or less of dark chocolate—it contains a small amount of caffeine which could keep you awake," she says.

An herbalist explains the benefits of cacao:

4. spinach

Spinach is a good source of both magnesium and tryptophan, making it doubly beneficial as a food for sleep. To make it easier for your body to digest, consider blending it and enjoying it as a smoothie or soup; liquids are easier for the intestine to break down than solids.

5. caffeine-free tea

The one beverage that makes Synder's better sleep list is decaf tea. "Caffeine-free tea has been shown to promote relaxation and sleep quality," she says. For some, the ritual of having tea before bed signals the beginning of a bedtime routine, priming the mind and body for sleep. Synder's favorites to sip on at night: chamomile, lavender, tulsi, and rooibos.

If it's the middle of the night and you're still up, here's what to do. And here, a sleep doctor shares her evening routine.

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