10 Foods That Make You Sleepy—and How to Use Them to Your Advantage

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From sipping on a sleepy girl mocktail to avoiding caffeine so you aren't up all night counting sheep, there's no denying that there's a connection between food and sleep. Sometimes this is a gift, and sometimes it's a curse.

Let's start with the blessings, shall we? Cue: foods that help you sleep.

By incorporating more sleep-friendly snacks into your diet (and fewer foods and drinks that disrupt your sleep), you'll be well on your way to float off soundly.

Here, registered dietitian and Verywell Health general manager Rachel Berman, RD, and Serena Poon, chef, give the low-down on common foods that can help you sleep better at night and which ones are actually keeping you up and interfering with your rest.

Experts In This Article

Foods that make you sleepy fast

Tryptophan-rich foods

According to Berman, foods and drinks with tryptophan could help you nod off. "Tryptophan is an amino acid which is known to boost feel good and sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin," she says. Though she notes that the jury is still out on the exact amount of tryptophan it takes to affect sleep, a connection has been well established1.

Turkey, salmon, eggs, tofu, lentils, and spinach all are sources of tryptophan, so incorporating these foods into your dinner could lead to a better night's sleep. "A warm glass of milk can be soothing and help you get into the mood for sleep," Berman adds; it's another source of the amino acid.

As for dessert, yogurt (another source of tryptophan) with almonds and banana or cherries is a good way to go. Almonds and bananas are both good sources of potassium and B vitamins, which help the nervous system relax. And cherries (one of the best fruits that will help you sleep) help the body release melatonin, aka the sleep hormone.

Vitamin D-rich foods

Eating foods rich in vitamin D, like mushrooms and eggs, can also set the groundwork for better slumber, since vitamin D deficiency is linked to poor sleep. “Eating healthy, vitamin D-rich foods may help you to lower your risk of vitamin D inadequacy or deficiency, and lower your risk of poor sleep and risk for other diseases,” Courtney Bancroft, PsyD says.

Magnesium-rich foods

Lastly, foods rich in magnesium, like almonds, bananas, and peanut butter (dream bedtime snacks, IMO), can support your body's natural melatonin production. Keep in mind that good gut health and sleep are also closely related, so eating nutrient-dense foods will help you make the most of your time in between the sheets.

10 foods and drinks that make you sleepy before bed

1. Chamomile tea

Drinking chamomile tea is known to have a calming effect, which is why Poon says it’s one of the best drinks for sleep to wind down and relax the body in the evening. And, it has additional benefits, too: “Chamomile also supplies numerous other benefits such as antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and anti-inflammatory properties,” she says.

2. Holy basil

Another tea option to try during your bedtime ritual is one made with dried holy basil, also known as tulsi, a herb often used in Ayurvedic therapies. “Holy basil has been shown to protect the body from stress, lower blood pressure, and have antimicrobial properties2,” Poon says.

3. Pistachios

What foods are high in melatonin? Pistachios is one of 'em. While there are many melatonin supplements available, Poon recommends adding more real foods that naturally boost the hormone, such as this nut. “Studies show that food sources of melatonin can support improved sleep quality3,” she says.

4. Tart cherries

Tart cherries also help the body release melatonin and support your natural circadian rhythm. “Tart cherries also contain serotonin, tryptophan, and are powerful antioxidants3,” Poon says. “Research shows that tart cherries before bed can improve sleep time and efficiency, decrease inflammation, and may help combat insomnia4.”

5. Goji berries

Goji berries, too, are a great source of melatonin, and they are “high in antioxidants5, which support health, vitality, and longevity,” Poon says. The best part: They’re fun to eat. Have them as a snack on their own, as a yogurt or oatmeal topping, or even brew them as a tea.

6. Avocados

In addition to being delicious, fan-favorite avocados are also rich in magnesium, which helps promote better sleep. “Avocados are also a good source of unsaturated fat that supports serotonin production, which supports quality sleep,” Poon says.

7. Walnuts

Walnuts have many benefits. They’re a great source of melatonin, tryptophan, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats, Poon says. And, “walnuts have also been shown to help decrease blood pressure6,” she adds.

8. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan and magnesium, making them an all-around great sleep-friendly food. Pro tip: Poon recommends roasting fresh pumpkin seeds with avocado oil, Himalayan pink salt, and other herbs and spices and having as an evening or movie snack.

9. Ashwagandha

“Ashwagandha is a root that has been shown to improve sleep quality and ability to fall asleep7,” Poon says. There are many ways to consume ashwagandha, but her favorite is via a warm latte made with homemade nut milk and other herbs. And, Poon points out that the latte also gets bonus points because nut milk provides magnesium and tryptophan, making it a soothing pre-sleep drink.

10. A time buffer

No, not a typo. “Researchers have found that eating within an hour of bedtime8 increases waking after sleep,” Poon says. "The closer to bedtime you eat, the more likely it is that you will experience a sleep disturbance.” She adds that the sweet spot is to eat your last meal about three hours before bedtime; following that, consider the delicious before-bed snacks above.

Foods that make you sleepy during the day

Not being able to keep your eyes open when you're at work is the worst. Getting everything done on your to-do list can be challenging even when energy is on your side, but when it's working against you? Woof. If you had a sugary granola bar or bagel for breakfast, you could find yourself wanting to take a nap a few hours later. Eating lots of foods high in simple carbs (like white bread and pasta) can make you sleepy too because they can cause a spike in blood sugar, and what comes up must come down, typically in a dreaded crash.

Instead, go for food sources with protein and healthy fats, which will keep blood sugar levels steady during the day. Salmon, turkey, eggs, nuts, and non-starchy veggies are all ideas of what to eat during the day that also won't cause your eyelids to get droopy later.

Common foods disrupting sleep at night

Have trouble sleeping on a regular basis or constantly wake up hungry? There are three main culprits that may be to blame: caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol.


Berman says the first factor to consider is your caffeine intake. "This may be very obvious, but it has to be said!" she says. "If you're drinking coffee, matcha, or other caffeinated teas, sodas, or energy drinks in the afternoon or early evening, it could be disrupting your sleep at night." Her advice is to stick with decaffeinated drinks after noon.


Berman also says your dessert choice could be keeping you up. "Chocolate has small amounts of caffeine, which could disrupt sleep if eaten right before bed," she says. Berman also says to keep an eye out for hidden sources of caffeine in your day-to-day life, such as migraine medications or cold medicines.


Aside from foods and drinks with caffeine, Berman says alcohol can also lead to interrupted sleep. "Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster but it can also disrupt REM sleep, which is the most restorative," Berman says. "Therefore, if you drink too much, you’ll have a poor quality of sleep and likely wake up in the middle of the night." Her advice is to stick with one standard drink (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. spirits), which shouldn't disrupt your sleep cycle. (Sleep expert Shelby Harris, PsyD, previously shared with Well+Good that she stops drinking within three hours of her desired bedtime.)

Other factors that can disrupt sleep

Of course there's more than food at play that factor into how well you sleep. Stress, electronic use, and having an untraditional work schedule can all play a role into disrupting sleep. But taking control of your diet by incorporating more sleep-promoting foods and cutting back on the ones that disrupt your sleep or leave you in need of a midday nap is one major step forward you can take. Now if only you could get your partner to stop snoring...

An herbalist shares a few remedies for promoting restful sleep naturally:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Friedman, Mendel. “Analysis, Nutrition, and Health Benefits of Tryptophan.” International journal of tryptophan research : IJTR vol. 11 1178646918802282. 26 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1177/1178646918802282
  2. Jamshidi, Negar, and Marc M Cohen. “The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 9217567. doi:10.1155/2017/9217567
  3. Pereira, Nádia et al. “Influence of Dietary Sources of Melatonin on Sleep Quality: A Review.” Journal of food science vol. 85,1 (2020): 5-13. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.14952
  4. Losso, Jack N et al. “Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms.” American journal of therapeutics vol. 25,2 (2018): e194-e201. doi:10.1097/MJT.0000000000000584
  5. Ma, Zheng Feei et al. “Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2019 2437397. 9 Jan. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/2437397
  6. Domènech, Mónica et al. “Effect of a Walnut Diet on Office and 24-Hour Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Elderly Individuals.” Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979) vol. 73,5 (2019): 1049-1057. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.12766
  7. Langade, Deepak et al. “Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study.” Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 264 (2021): 113276. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276
  8. Iao, Su I et al. “Associations between bedtime eating or drinking, sleep duration and wake after sleep onset: findings from the American time use survey.” The British journal of nutrition, vol. 127,12 1-10. 13 Sep. 2021, doi:10.1017/S0007114521003597

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