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Foods that can help with sleep

Hey sleep enthusiast, do you know that feeling when you’re going through a rough patch of sleep of how it can feel especially tempting to turn to the takeaway for dinner? Getting some tasty treats can be a reward for making it through the challenges of the day, as well as bringing some ease and comfort when you’re feeling drained. I have definitely been there in my insomnia days. And if this sounds familiar, it’s not just us - studies have shown that a lack of sleep can make junk food and snacks all the more tempting.

As a sleep coach, I work with clients to assess all aspects of their lifestyle to find what may be blocking their sleep out of the many choices and habits we have throughout the day, many on autopilot. This work covers relationships and connection, movement, deeply held beliefs and nutrition. So let's look at how different types of food can impact sleep...

How fast food can impact sleep

However satisfying fast food may be in the moment, it may not typically give our bodies the most nutrition they need. There’s also a link between how fast food and other highly processed foods can affect sleep quality. This shines a light on how that routine of getting through a tough day, enjoying a takeaway at night, then struggling to sleep can be a difficult cycle to break!

However, there are some foods that can help with getting more reliable sleep. You can read about these below, as well as a recipe for a sleepy smoothie bowl and night time drink that contains most of the ingredients. You could see how the smoothie bowl for dinner may be for you, or potentially make a smaller version as a snack.

As with everything related to working out what helps with your sleep, reviewing your lifestyle for how your habits and choices may support or block your sleep comes down to getting curious about how your body responds.

Eating before sleep

The best practice guidelines for meals and sleep are to eat no less than three hours before going to bed. Although it can be ok to have a snack up to an hour before bed if needed. This is something you can experiment with to see what may feel ok for you.

With that in mind, let’s check out which foods to look out for that can help your drifting off to sleep.

Eating bananas for sleep

This fruit is rich in nutrients, including tryptophan and melatonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that comes from your diet and helps your body create melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate sleep, while serotonin calms the brain, improves mood, and helps with sleep.

How kiwis can help with sleep

Kiwis contain numerous antioxidants and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. One study showed that eating two kiwifruits one hour before bedtime may help people who struggle with sleep problems to sleep faster, better, and for longer.

How strawberry can help with melatonin for sleep

Strawberries contain magnesium, an essential mineral that plays a key role in regulating the body's nervous system. It can help to promote relaxation and calmness, as well as helping to regulate the production of melatonin.

The dreamy effects of oatmeal before bed

Oatmeal is also a known source of the natural sleep aid, melatonin. Oats are rich in fibre and complex carbohydrates, which means they take longer to digest - keeping you fuller for longer. All of which can help to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed.

Do pistachio nuts help you sleep?

Pistachio nuts contain vitamin B6 and magnesium, which are known to contribute to better sleep, in particular for those who may suffer with RSL, or restless leg syndrome.

​What about tart cherry juice for sleep?

Studies suggest that tart cherry juice can help increase sleep quality and duration. This is backed by the high amounts of tryptophan and melatonin it contains, both of which help the body to get a good night’s sleep.

Can warm milk help you sleep?

Drinking warm milk is a well-known sleepy remedy. It works because both cow’s milk and soy milk are rich in tryptophan, which is shown to improve sleep and mood. Interestingly, milk collected from cows milked at night has been shown to contain melatonin, which can help induce sleep. Although it may not typically be found in your local supermarket just yet.

You can get creative with a range of different recipes that include the sleep-inducing ingredients above. If you want to try getting lots of these foods in one go, you can combine them in a sleepy smoothie bowl. Or, if you’re thinking this sounds like it may take more effort than you have able to give, and maybe you’re not quite ready to let go of comfort foods to experiment with smoothie bowls, I have something for you here.

Sleepy smoothie bowl preparation

Give yourself around forty-five minutes to create the sleepy smoothie bowl and drink. It could form part of a ritual for winding down for the evening, so anything you can do to make this a calming experience and show your body it’s time to relax would be helpful. This can include listening to gentle music, taking time to breathe deeply, lighting a candle or anything else that you enjoy and brings some relaxation.

Ingredients for the sleepy smoothie bowl

1/4 cup cashews,

1/4 cup pistachios,

1/2 banana,

1 kiwifruit,

1/2 cup oats,

3/4 cup milk,

1 tbsp chia seeds,

1/2 tsp vanilla extract,

A handful of strawberries,

Mint leaves.

Recipe for the sleepy smoothie bowl

Heat a pan on medium and toast the cashews and pistachios until brown and fragrant (4-5 minutes).

Whilst the nuts are toasting, slice the banana and kiwifruit. Blend the toasted nuts for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes smooth.

In a pot, mix the oats, chia, vanilla extract and milk. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Serve the cooked mixture into a bowl, adding the chia seeds, sliced banana, kiwi, strawberries, pistachio cashew butter, mint leaf and any other seeds or garnishes you may have to add on the top.

Ingredients for the cherry milk drink

1 cup milk,

1/2 cup tart cherry juice,

1 tablespoon honey,

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract,

Cinnamon (optional).

Instructions for the cherry milk drink

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add the tart cherry juice to the saucepan and continue to warm the mixture over low heat.

Stir in the honey and vanilla extract, continuing to stir until the honey is dissolved.

Pour the warm drink into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Enjoy sipping your cosy drink!

What if it’s just too hard to break the takeaway cycle when you’re sleep deprived?

Maybe you’ve read this far, found out which foods can help with sleep, considered the sleepy smoothie bowl recipe and… that’s about enough for today. I get it. Whilst you may be open to learning about foods to help with sleep, it can feel like a lot of energy to put this knowledge into practice and a change. And maybe if sleep has not been your friend recently, you just don’t have the energy, as much as you may wish to, right now. Changing habits takes work, it’s not something that can be fixed overnight - unfortunately! Something I’ve found helpful to share with sleep coaching clients when they need support in preparing to make changes is the practice of centring. It is an embodiment practice that helps with slowing down to gain enough mental and somatic space between stimuli (like cravings for fast food) and response (choosing to not indulge a craving or choosing a healthier option). You can try it out for yourself with the video below:

Changing habits with sleep coaching

Sleep coaching is all about habit change and there are many factors you can consider when it comes to caring for your body to best set yourself up for sleep. Once you get curious about experimenting with nutrition, you could also look at the impact of coffee and alcohol, exercise, circadian rhythms and other factors that affect the body here. These are some of the areas we review in Restful Sleep coaching, along with covering all aspects of a person’s lifestyle and the small, daily habits that make up their day - each one is a vote towards supporting sleep, or not. Other areas covered in holistic sleep coaching are ways to care for your mind and environment to identify blocks and find the most supportive lifestyle for your sleep.

My hope is that with the articles on this website you can get curious about how the different aspects of your lifestyle may impact on your sleep, to start experimenting with new habits and getting more consistent sleep. If you have any questions about how sleep coaching could help with your specific sleep struggles, you can book a free discovery call or find out more about sleep coaching.

Stay curious,



About the author

Maša Nobilo, Sleep Coach

From first-hand insomniac to certified Embodied Facilitator with training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, the Feldenkrais Method and Embodied Yoga Principles, Maša is well-equipped to support you on journey to restful sleep.
Learn more below.

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