Healthy Foods that Help You Sleep & Foods to Avoid Before Bed

Sleep is critical to our health as it affects every aspect from our immune systems to our risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. Eating a healthy diet isn’t going to ensure you get 8 restful hours of sleep a night, but eating (and avoiding) certain foods before bed can certainly help you get there.

Foods for a Good Night’s Sleep


A cup of warm milk before hitting the hay sure sounds like an old wives’ tale rather than sound nutritional advice? Well, science now shows us that our mothers were right, drinking a warm glass of milk will indeed help you sleep better! Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps in the production of the sleep inducing brain chemicals, serotonin and melatonin. Additionally, dairy products are high in calcium and magnesium. These nutrients work together to calm the body and help relax muscles. A lack of these minerals may cause you to wake up after a few hours and not return to sleep. Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This combination of nutrients in dairy products explains why they are the best sleep-inducing foods.

Spinach, Bananas, Nuts, Seeds, Fish and Whole Grains

These foods are all high in magnesium. If you do not consume enough magnesium, chronic insomnia is one of the main, central symptoms. These foods will only work if one has a magnesium deficiency, but will be neutral if you consume enough magnesium.

Herbal Tea

Herbal tea, such as chamomile, passion flower tea and valerian, all have a sedative effect and lead to a good night’s sleep.

Oats, Bananas, Poultry, Eggs, Peanuts and Tuna

What do these foods have in common? They are all high in tryptophan! Tryptophan works by inducing the brain chemical serotonin and melatonin, which help relax the body and prepare it for a good night sleep.

Foods to Avoid Before Bedtime

Caffeine, Caffeine, Caffeine…Of Course!

The stimulant effect of caffeine reaches its peak one to four hours after it's consumed, but some people who are sensitive to caffeine can feel its effects up to 12 hours later. Be aware that some other beverages and foods also contain caffeine that could keep you up at night. This includes decaf coffee (there is up to 20 mg caffeine in decaf), teas, chocolate and most sodas. Additionally, some over-the-counter cold and headache remedies are also high in caffeine. Be sure to limit all caffeine sources to 4 to 6 hours before bedtime and even longer if you know you are sensitive to caffeine’s effects.

Large Meals

A large, late evening meal interferes with sleep as your body is busy digesting. You may also suffer from heartburn or indigestion. Try to eat at least three hours before going to bed.


Alcohol does not improve sleep quality. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Alcohol reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and rob you of needed ZZZs. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects.

Spicy Foods

Eating spicy foods can amp up your metabolism, often resulting in a higher body temperature that can, in turn, lead to a restless night. Ditch the salsa, jalapeno peppers and other spicy foods when trying to get some shut-eye.

Seattle Sutton's Health Eating can help you live a more healthy lifestyle whether your goal is to lose weight, sleep better, improve workout efficiency, or simply eat healthier. Browse our selection of healthy eating meal plans or read the success stories of other happy customers to get started.