11 Snooze-Inducing Fruits That Research Has Shown Will Help You Get a Good Night’s Rest

Photo: Stocksy/Jesse Morrow
If you regularly fail to get good, restful sleep, you've probably tried just about everything to get relief: taking magnesium and melatonin supplements, trying meditation or deep breathing exercises, investing in ear plugs to drown out your partner's sores, or even trying alternative medicine therapies.  The struggle is real, folks—particularly since not every solution works for every person. But if you're looking for something new to try to help you catch some Zzzs, did you know that you can eat certain kinds of fruits for better sleep, too?

No, we're not just talking about the "sleepy girl mocktail," although that is delicious (and honestly kind of legit). According to Melanie Murphy Richter, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and neuronutritionist, eating habits and sleep go hand in hand. In fact, she says nutrition plays a critical role in our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and—most importantly—have a restful sleep. "Certain minerals, like potassium and magnesium, found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can help to relax our muscles so that our body can more easily fall asleep," Richter says.

Experts In This Article

Additionally, Richter says certain foods that make you sleepy contain critical neurotransmitters and nutrients for better sleep. "Our body needs certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin to sleep properly, and these hormones are produced via nutrients found in whole foods. Consuming foods rich in these nutrients can help promote a natural circadian rhythm for the body," she says.

To see which types of produce are best to promote better shut-eye and why, we asked Richter and Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, of Real Nutrition in New York City for their expert insights about fruits for better sleep.

Which fruit is best to eat at night?

Before we dig in, let’s first get one thing out of the way: the diet culture myth that eating fruit at night is “bad.” “Fruit is a whole food and a great source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” Shapiro says. “Eating fruit at night is not bad.” Some of her favorite options include tart cherries, pineapple, and kiwi. (But more on that ahead.)

However, Shapiro does note that eating too much of any of these delicious fruit options can potentially disrupt your sleep if it causes indigestion, gas, or a stomachache—in part due to all of the gut-friendly fiber fruit offers. This is not because the fruit itself is bad or unhealthy, but more because your body can only tolerate so much fiber at once. If you’re mindful of your serving sizes (starting with one serving and seeing how your tummy fares), you should be good to go to enjoy a post-dinner healthy fruit snack.

11 fruits for better sleep that RDs recommend

1. Tart cherries

Tart cherries (whether enjoyed as a whole fruit, juice, concentrate, or infused in water) are typically considered the best fruit for sleep, as they are one of the top foods with melatonin. “Tart cherries are believed to help with insomnia due to the nutrients they contain, including potassium and the hormone melatonin,” Shapiro says. “Both of these help to relax muscles and promote quicker, deeper sleep.”

In a small randomized, double-blind study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, participants who consumed tart cherry juice over the course of a week exhibited “significantly elevated” levels of total melatonin content1 compared to the placebo group. The former group also enjoyed significant increases in total sleep time and sleep efficiency. In other words, tart cherries are the sleep-friendly fruits you definitely shouldn’t (pun alert) snooze on if you’re hoping to improve your shut-eye thorough diet.

That said, Shapiro suggests sipping on tart cherry juice for better sleep, as “you would have to eat about 25 tart cherries, which may be hard to find,” to enjoy their sleep-promoting benefits. Plus, there are tons of ways to get creative with this bedtime bevvy, thanks to these creative tart cherry juice drink recipes.

2. Pineapple

This tropical treat also gets the green light on Shapiro’s list of sleep-friendly fruits for two key reasons. First, she mentions that one of the main benefits of pineapples is that they actually contain more melatonin than cherries—and research backs up their ability to significantly boost levels of this sleep hormone in the body. Per a 2013 clinical crossover study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that those who ate pineapple had a 266 percent increase in melatonin levels2, which exceeded that of five other fruits (including the next two on this list).

“Pineapples also help with digestion which can prevent stomach aches at night,” Shapiro adds. This benefit is largely credited to bromelain, a key enzyme in pineapples that can assist with constipation, IBD, and other forms of inflammation. Plus, the frozen fruit makes for the perfect addition to a sleep-friendly smoothie recipe.

3. Bananas

“Bananas—ideally, when they’re not too ripe—are another great snack to have before bed since they are a great source of potassium, which may help to relax your muscles,” Shapiro says. “They also contain serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin and may help you to fall and stay asleep.” Bananas are also a sleep-friendly fruit since they contain tryptophan—the same amino acid in turkey that makes us sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner—which itself boosts serotonin production and thus melatonin, as well.

Moreover, Shapiro suggests prioritizing bananas in your diet since they’re “a great source of resistant starch, which will help promote healthy bacteria in the body and will be digested slowly so as not to spike blood sugar.” Banana before bed, anyone?

4. Oranges

Perhaps surprisingly, oranges are RD-approved to eat both upon waking up and before hitting the hay. They’re an excellent source of immunity-supporting vitamin C, but Shapiro shares that they also help to increase melatonin in the body3. In addition, they “contain B vitamins, which help to manage stress, and also aid in the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA—all of which help to promote sleep,” she continues.

5. Kiwi

Kiwis are a tried-and-true fruit that can enhance your sleep quality—especially if you routinely struggle to get a good night’s rest. In one small study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adult participants with sleep problems ate two kiwis an hour before bedtime4 every night for four weeks. By the end of the study, they enjoyed significant increases in total sleep time and sleep efficiency, as well as significant decreases in waking time after sleep onset (how many minutes they were awake after initially falling asleep) and sleep onset latency (aka the time it took to fall asleep).

These impressive results “may be due to kiwi’s serotonin levels, which help us relax and fall asleep, or their anti-inflammatory properties which may also help with falling asleep,” Shapiro explains. She says that more research is needed to back up kiwi’s pro-sleep benefits, but they’re still a great fruit to add into your rotation nonetheless.

“Kiwis are a great source of many nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and trace minerals. They can help with digestion, too,” Shapiro adds. (Hot tip: While it may seem a bit counterintuitive to do so, enjoying kiwis with their peels on—yep, fuzz and all—can triple the fiber content, retain more vitamin C, *and* reduce food waste. Don’t knock it till you try it!)

6. Dragon fruit or pitaya

According to Richter, dragon fruit is a good source of magnesium, aka an ideal nutrient to include in a bedtime snack. For context, there's about seven grams of magnesium per 100-gram serving of the fruit. "It's especially high in magnesium which can help relax muscles, reduce stress, and promote certain neurotransmitter production, like GABA, needed for proper sleep," Richter says.

 7. Guava

Along with magnesium, guava also contains another critical nutrient for sleep: potassium. "Guava is high in a variety of critical sleep nutrients, like potassium and magnesium, that, when combined, help to support the central nervous system (CNS) and promote calmness, which can improve the quality of sleep," Richter explains.

8. Gooseberries

Aside from being a delight for your palate, gooseberries can also help support better sleep. "Gooseberries are a unique type of berry that are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols that can help fight oxidative stress and inflammation5, which can indirectly benefit sleep," Richter says. She adds that they also contain natural sedative properties that may help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer (although that potential benefit needs to be studied more).

9. Mulberries

According to Richter, mulberries contain a significant amount of resveratrol, another antioxidant known to support immune function. "Resveratrol has also been shown to enhance the production of serotonin and melatonin6, two hormones needed to regulate proper sleep," she says.

10. Apples

Even though apples may not always keep the doctor away, they can potentially help you relax during the night. "Apples are super high in fiber which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels overnight to support staying asleep," Richter says. Not to mention, they're easy to find.

11. Pomegranate

Richter says pomegranates contains an antioxidant called anthocyanins which can help improve circulation. "With better circulation and blood flow, our body will receive the oxygen it needs to promote a more restful and restorative sleep," she says.

What foods to avoid before bed?

When considering which foods to avoid before bed, it's important to take a look at how they may impact blood sugar levels. "Stabilizing blood sugar is necessary to ensure that our body has enough energy overnight to sustain us and keep us asleep," Richter says. This is why the dietitian recommends that folks stay away from high-sugar foods, large meals, or processed foods right before bed.

If not, Richter says you may be more prone to waking up during the night because of erratic blood sugar fluctuations. "High sugar foods can cause a blood sugar rush that can lead to energy crashes during the night. Avoiding sugary snacks, desserts, processed foods, and sweetened beverages right before bed can help mitigate these negative sleep effects," she reiterates.

Richter also recommends skipping foods high in saturated or trans fat. "They can lead to indigestion or digestive issues that can keep you awake at night. So avoid fried foods, rich sauces, dairy, and high-fat meats ate in the day," she says. Spicy or acidic foods are also best consumed earlier in the day. "They can potentially lead to heartburn which can be uncomfortable and prevent you from sleeping soundly. Opt to eat foods like wasabi, serrano peppers, jalapeños, citrus fruits, or tomatoes earlier in the day to support proper digestion and better sleep," Richter says.

Other foods (or drinks) that can negatively impact the quality of your shut-eye include coffee and sugary beverages. "Certain stimulants like caffeine and sugar promote energy and can keep you awake. Eating these types of foods too close to bedtime can inadvertently cause poor sleep," Richter says. "Be mindful that caffeine isn’t only found in coffee and tea, but it is also found in chocolate. So be mindful of your desserts," she adds.

Bottom line

If you’ve been avoiding eating fruit after the sun goes down, it may be time to switch things up. However, in order for these fruits to truly yield a better night’s rest, Shapiro notes that it’s not a one-and-done kind of deal. “For many of these fruits, it is the buildup of the nutrients that help maintain levels that will assist you in relaxing,” she explains. (Read: Regular consumption is key.) She adds that pretty large amounts of fruits with melatonin are required to reap their wind-down effects, which is why their juiced counterparts (or supplements) tend to be popular.

Last but not least, Shapiro recommends eating these fruits at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. And, of course, the standard sleep hygiene tips apply to boost your chances of getting your most restful sleep yet. On the food and drink front, “avoid eating large meals two to three hours prior to bed, drinking too much liquid before sleep, and limiting alcohol intake,” she advises.

Discover a few herbal remedies for sleep:

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. Howatson, Glyn et al. “Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.” European journal of nutrition vol. 51,8 (2012): 909-16. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
  2. Johns, Nutjaree Pratheepawanit et al. “Dietary intake of melatonin from tropical fruit altered urinary excretion of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy volunteers.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 61,4 (2013): 913-9. doi:10.1021/jf300359a
  3. Pranil, Thorung et al. “Melatonin and its derivative contents in tropical fruits and fruit tablets.” Journal of food composition and analysis vol. 103 (2021): 104109. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2021.104109.
  4. Lin, Hsiao-Han et al. “Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition vol. 20,2 (2011): 169-74.
  5. Gul, Maryam et al. “Functional and Nutraceutical Significance of Amla (Phyllanthus emblica L.): A Review.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,5 816. 22 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3390/antiox11050816
  6. Shayganfard, Mehran. “Molecular and biological functions of resveratrol in psychiatric disorders: a review of recent evidence.” Cell & bioscience vol. 10,1 128. 7 Nov. 2020, doi:10.1186/s13578-020-00491-3

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