Healthy eats for a great night’s sleep

Sleep is essential for all manner of body functions, including removing toxins in the brain, healing injuries, promoting cognition and memory and can help ease our stresses, just to name a few.

It’s said that nearly a third of all UK adults struggle with sleep problems and insomnia, and the impact of this is highly detrimental to your physical body and mental health.

Why can’t we sleep?

In our modern world, there are a number of reasons why sleep is disturbed. Insomnia often appears as a response most commonly due to stress, anxiety and trauma. Whilst these problems may benefit from medical treatment, there are some natural remedies for fighting insomnia to work alongside traditional treatment. And we’re happy to announce that food is one of them!

Hormones and food

Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleep function, ensuring a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Essentially, it tells your body when it’s time to sleep. This hormone is synthesised from our ‘happy hormone’, serotonin and serotonin is made from the essential amino acid, tryptophan, which naturally occurs in many food groups.

So if you are struggling with sleep, the good news is that what you eat can positively impact the quality of your 40-winks. We’ve pulled together a list of foods naturally high in melatonin and tryptophan, to prompt a relaxing night’s sleep.

Essential eats for sleep


Having been heralded as the fruit to eat before bedtime, kiwis really do work wonders. Packed with powerful antioxidants, research suggests that eating two kiwis an hour before bedtime, significantly reduces the time it takes to fall asleep, the amount of times you wake in the night and improves the quality of sleep.

The research study by Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University, took place over four weeks with participants consuming two kiwis a night, and results showed that the total sleep time among volunteers increased by 13.4%, and the sleep waking time after sleep onset, was reduced by 42.4%. 

Tart cherries

These delicious fruits are naturally high in tryptophan and melatonin, a double whammy when it comes to eating for sleep. They also contain fibre, magnesium calcium, potassium and vitamins A, C, B6 and E. Cherries aren’t for everyone, particularly in texture, so you might want to try tart cherry juice. Be sure to check for a ‘no added sugar’ label, and be aware that juicing reduces the fibre content dramatically.


This funky green is actually jam-packed with nutrients that aid a variety of healthy functions in your body. Asparagus is rich in folate, known as vitamin B, and deficiencies with this vitamin have been strongly linked to insomnia.

The chromium mineral, an essential trace element, is also found in asparagus which is good news if you’re managing your blood sugar levels. Chromium aids insulin’s ability to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.  


You’ll know that turkey has been linked to making people sleepy from plentiful Christmas dinners, but it’s not just the indulgence that makes you need to take a nap. Turkey is rich in tryptophan. It is one of the scarcest amino acids in turkey so a healthy dose of leafy greens will support your tryptophan intake.  


Alongside its many health benefits, salmon is rich in vitamin B6 which is directly linked to the production of melatonin. Salmon is also high in protein, keeping you fuller for longer and is rich in omega-3, an essential fatty acid that contributes to brain health, heart health and healthy joints.

Half a cup of warm milk

Now this might just be a placebo effect, but the act of drinking warm milk can evoke nostalgic feelings of being a child, comforted and safe with the milk that we often drank before bed, in turn making us feel fuzzy and sleepy.

As we all know, milk is a rich source of calcium, and this mineral aids the brain in melatonin production. Milk is actually a source of tryptophan but the amount is very small, so combine your milk intake with a healthy balance of the above foods, for optimum effect.

Other natural methods to fight sleep disturbance

Magnesium, known as ‘the sleep mineral’, is a natural relaxant – essential in regulating neurotransmitters and calming the nervous system – important for quality sleep. Foods rich in magnesium include avocado, soybeans, broccoli, mackerel and spinach.

Hypnotherapy for insomnia is an alternative practice that can have a profoundly positive impact on your sleep disturbances. Hypnotherapy works to access your subconscious mind whilst you are in a deeply relaxed state, and in doing so can determine the root cause of your insomnia. Once uncovered, you can work with a hypnotherapist to devise a tailored treatment plan for overcoming the sleep problem.

A session of crystal healing has been known to evoke a deep sense of relaxation, soothing stress and anxieties and in turn, promoting healthy sleep cycles. Amethyst is the go-to crystal when struggling with insomnia.

Reflexology is a soothing practice that can help to unblock and rebalance hormones. As we know, insomnia is intrinsically linked to hormone imbalance, so reflexology is a worthy option to consider.

Use our search tool to find a nutrition professional who can support you with healthy food plans for insomnia.

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Written by Katie Hoare
Katie is a writer for Nutritionist Resource.
Written by Katie Hoare
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