Sleep is one of those activities that should be a priority, and yet is often the first thing to go when life gets stressful. We all "know" that we need to be getting 7-8 hours a night, but it's not always feasible to allot that much time to nodding off with our busy schedules.

However, research shows that sleep deprivation is disastrous to our health. It impairs cognitive function, raises stress hormones, and increases inflammation in our bodies. When we are over-tired, we're more at risk for illness, sugar cravings, and even weight gain. That's why insomnia is the worst - if we only get a limited amount of time to hit the hay, then being able to fall and stay asleep is crucial.

If you ever struggle with getting enough sleep, the good news is that you can raise your odds of waking up well rested through your diet. Certain nutrients have been shown to support healthy sleep, and they can be found in a bunch of foods that you might have in your kitchen or pantry right now. Try some of these science-backed picks to eat your way to a better night's sleep.


Market, Fruit, yellow summer squash, vegetable, pasture, banana
Amelia Hitchens

Bananas are famously high in potassium, and they also pack a hefty dose of magnesium, both of which are muscle relaxants which can help you wind down for sleep. They are also a healthy source of carbohydrates, which can raise levels of serotonin, the hormone that promotes wellbeing, and accelerate sleep onset. Plus, they are a super quick, easy, and delicious night time snack.

Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds, sesame seed, vegetable, cereal
Alyssa Robertson

More than just a tasty seasonal favorite, pumpkin seeds are a rich source of relaxation promoting-magnesium, as well as anti-inflammatory healthy fats. Similar sources include nuts like almonds or walnuts. Try them as a snack or sprinkled on a salad for some extra crunch.


Honey bear, yogurt, honey, cream, tea
Sam Jesner

Ever heard that a glass of warm milk is the perfect cure for insomnia? That's because dairy products are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that our bodies use to make melatonin, our "drowsiness" hormone. The great thing about yogurt is that it is also a good source of probiotics, which means many people will have an easier time digesting it than milk. And, because there is a close connection between our brains and digestive systems, the good bacteria in yogurt can even help reduce stressful feelings before bed.  Try Greek or Icelandic yogurt for extra protein (and tryptophan).

Meat & Poultry (or Soy) 

meat, barbecue, pork, chicken
Christin Urso

There's a reason why people blame the turkey for the post-Thanksgiving slump. Because tryptophan is an amino acid, any foods high in protein will contain it; particularly red meat, pork, and poultry.  Other sources include eggs and cheese (cheddar lovers rejoice). Following a plant-based diet? Soy is a complete protein and also a great source of tryptophan.

Tart Cherries

cherry pie, making a pie, pie crust, cherry filling, berry, sweet, jam, cream, compote, cherry, pastry
Julia Gilman

Cherries are one of the few foods that contain melatonin in its converted form, so they can help you fall asleep faster and for longer. Plus, they're a perfect excuse to break out the cherry pie for dessert. If cherries aren't in season, the juice works just as well.

Leafy Greens

vegetable, lettuce, pasture, salad, cabbage, spinach
Caroline Ingalls

Dark greens like spinach, Swiss chard, and collards are nutrient packed, and particularly high in magnesium and calcium, which helps your body convert tryptophan to melatonin. They're also just really good for you in general so you can't go wrong. Pair 'em with a protein for dinner and you'll be asleep in no time!

Bone Broth

cream, broth, tea, sweet, pumpkin, soup
Alixandra Rutnik

Bone broth is an example of a traditional food that has gotten ~trendy~ again in health and wellness circles, and there may be a good reason for it. Bone broth is high in glycine, an amino acid that we don't get a ton of in conventional cuts of meat, which has been shown to help people relax and fall asleep at night. Next time you want to get a good night's sleep, a hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle might be the ticket.


jam, oil, tea
Jocelyn Hsu

The ritual of brewing and enjoying a nice cup of tea is stress-reducing on its own, and calming chamomile tea has been found to help you wind down at night. Any herbal tea will have benefits, though. Just make sure it's caffeine-free!

Oatmeal (or other healthy carbs)

milk, sweet, oatmeal, rice, porridge
Christin Urso

If you only think of oatmeal as a breakfast food, you may want to reconsider. It's full of nutrients that help you sleep, like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, not to mention serotonin-boosting carbs. Other great picks are jasmine rice and sweet potato.

To Sum it all Up

Sleep is absolutely essential to good physical and mental health, so trouble getting enough is not something to take lightly. There are lots of great ways to help yourself sleep better, like exercise, meditation, refraining from caffeine in the evenings, and reducing screen time before bed.

However, if you could use some more help, paying attention to your diet and incorporating some of these foods might be a good approach to try. A strategic snack before lights out could be just what you need to finally get some shuteye. Sweet dreams!