Foods for a Good Night’s Sleep

Foods for a Good Night's Sleep

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Preparing for a good night’s sleep starts at mealtime. Certain foods, such as the ones listed below, can have a calming effect on both the brain and body. And if you’re not sure how to incorporate each food into a dish, take a look at these suggestions.

Lean Proteins

Tryptophan, an amino acid that increases serotonin levels to help you feel sleepy and relaxed, can be found in foods like turkey, chicken, fish, and low-fat cheese.

Combining foods that are high in tryptophan with healthy, complex carbohydrates also improves sleep. An hour before bed, try having a snack of whole-wheat crackers and cheese or a small turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread. Or for dinner, chow down on grilled chicken and brown rice, a black bean and cheddar quesadilla on a whole-grain tortilla, or whole-wheat mac ‘n cheese.


Certain herbs, such as sage and basil, contain chemicals that can improve sleep by easing tensions that would keep you awake. Basil can be sprinkled on whole-wheat pasta dishes or when topping sliced mozzarella and tomatoes. You can also chop it up and mix it with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper, and pecorino cheese to make a pesto sauce, and then toss cooked zucchini in it. Sage, on the other hand, pairs best with fatty meats like pork and beef (which you should, of course, eat only in moderation). You can also put it on butternut squash soup or a cold bean salad.


Eating heart-healthy fats can also boost serotonin levels, and nuts—including walnuts, almonds, and cashews, as well as nut butters—are a solid source. Nuts are a great addition to salads and stir-fry dinners, and they can also be incorporated into meals as breadcrumbs on, say, a chicken cutlet. Or, mix sliced almonds with green beans as a side, combine walnuts with bananas in whole-grain pancakes, or smear almond butter on a whole-grain waffle.

Want even more meal ideas? Check these out.