Are the foods you eat helping you get a great night’s sleep, or are they sabotaging your sleep? If a restful night’s sleep has been eluding you, it’s time to change your approach and try eating foods that can help promote healthy sleep. 

1. Fermented Foods

Yes, it may seem odd that sauerkraut could help you sleep, but it’s true. The microorganisms required for fermentation also come with good bacteria and enzymes that support your gut health. When your gut is healthy and functioning properly, your body is more at ease, and you will find it easier to relax. 

The key is knowing which fermented foods still contain the friendly bacteria you want. Some products you buy in the store have been pasteurized and cooked, killing good bacteria. Some examples of fermented foods that might help you sleep are sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, and apple cider vinegar.

fermented foods in glass jars

2. Starchy Tubers

If you’re going to try to support gut health by adding probiotics and healthy bacteria, you’re going to want to nourish that bacteria. Starchy tubers are great food for your gut bacteria. Examples of starchy tubers include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, potato starch, plantains, taro, and yucca.

3. Tart Cherries

Cherries are not only delicious, but they’re a good way to get more B vitamins and magnesium. Even better is the melatonin in cherries. That’s right, the molecule that helps you sleep can be found in cherries. 

Tart cherries are one of a few foods that contain natural melatonin. So, grab yourself a glass of tart cherry juice today to see if it helps you sleep better.

a group of cherries

4. Bananas

Bananas are loaded with potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants, so they can help your body feel at ease and calm. Bananas also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, the same property in turkey that makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving. 

5. Warm Chamomile Tea

For some, this is known as bedtime tea. Chamomile tea has long been used to help with insomnia and other ailments. The soothing flavor is gently comforting, while the flavonoids and terpenoids are hard at work performing as antioxidants to help support cardiovascular, immune, and whole-body health. 

a glass teapot with chamomile tea

6. Toast

At first, it may seem counterintuitive to carb-load in the evening because carbohydrates are broken down into sugars for energy, which is not what you want before bed. However, after eating carbs, your body produces insulin to bring down your blood sugar, which releases tryptophan and serotonin, promoting relaxation and sleep.

7. Almond Butter

Almond butter is loaded with fat and protein, which slows digestion to keep your blood sugar steady. Almonds also contain magnesium and tryptophan to promote relaxation and sleep. Pair your almond butter with a slice of toast, and you’ve got a great bedtime snack that will help you get to sleep and then stay asleep.

8. Warm Milk

This one you’ve probably heard about, but do you know why warm milk helps you sleep? There are very small amounts of tryptophan in milk, but the link between warm milk and sleep is mostly in your head. For many, the feelings of being nursed or breastfed before bedtime are triggered by warmed milk, which prompts relaxation, comfort, and sleepiness. 

almond butter

If you routinely have warm milk before bed, this can help your body recognize a healthy circadian rhythm, prompting the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.

The Bottom Line

If you have trouble sleeping, before you run to the medicine cabinet, try some of these recommended foods or drinks first to see if you can encourage your body to relax and sleep better in a natural way. 

When you do find something that works, try doing it regularly. Having a bedtime routine signals the body and the brain that sleep is coming. The brain then releases melatonin, and you’re ready for restorative sleep.

Keeping your body stress-free is also key to a good night’s sleep. A healthy routine with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management is the best way to promote physical and mental health and a relaxing night’s sleep.