Foods that promote sleep

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While much has been written on foods to avoid before bedtime (summary = caffeine, alcohol, high fat meals or meals laden with garlic and spice) less has been shared about foods that actually promote sleep. Its clear that not eating enough can keep you awake and to my delight there is now research that promotes eating a snack 15 minutes before bedtime – just remember to brush your teeth!


Here is a list of the top ranking sleep-promoting foods. Their power lies in being rich in vitamin B6 and/or minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which are precursors to the wonderful sleep hormones melatonin and serotonin. There are a few super sleep power foods, which in addition to these ingredients are carbohydrate rich and so help to get you to sleep even faster.

1. Bananas – The best sleep promotor by far. Bananas tick all the boxes. They are rich in vitamin B6 which is a precursor to melatonin as well as a great source of potassium and magnesium which are known muscle relaxers. Bananas also contain 5HTP which is a precursor to serotonin. The natural sugars cause a nice insulin spike too which promotes sleepiness. In addition they are cheap, accessible all year round and the ultimate anywhere snack.
Other fruits that come close? Cherries! But alas these are often hard to find out of season so tap into tart cherry juice or dried cherries as an alternative.

2. Oats – South Africans know just how important it is to get their bowl of Jungle Oats to perform well during the day but the truth is that oats are rich in melatonin, B6 and carbohydrates which all promote better sleep at night.
Can’t stand oats? Alternatives include sprinkling oatmeal on fruit or into your smoothie or eating a fortified cereal derived from oats eg. Oatees.

3. Jasmine rice- It turns out that high-GI carbohydrates beat their brown counterparts hands down when it comes to helping us sleep. The reason? Insulin spikes actually cause sleepiness… just think how tired you are after that initial energy burst from your afternoon chocolate bar.
Not that into rice? Toast can work as can bagels, baked potatoes and waffles! Beware though… too much sugar or fat can send sleep out of the window.

4. Milk – All calcium-rich foods are great sleep makers. Research keeps showing how great a glass of milk can be to assist with falling asleep. Dairy not your friend? Try a little less lactose and have some yogurt or have no lactose at all and eat some calcium rich kale.

Which ultimate sleepy snack would you choose?

  • A bowl of oats with pieces of banana and warm milk or
  • Yogurt sprinkled with cherries or
  • A slice of toast with butter

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