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Eating Your Way to a Good Night’s Sleep

What you consume throughout the day can impact your sleep.

The new year typically brings a fresh batch of health tips and ideas for living better from all directions in the media. I recently read an interesting set of ideas online geared specifically for restful sleep, courtesy of a new book by Elizabeth Somer, RD, called Eat Your Way to Happiness from my friends the YOU DOCs, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Can you really eat your way to a good night’s rest?

Yes, you can. What you choose to consume throughout the day, in fact, can impact how easy it is for you to fall asleep, and how well you sleep that night. Certain nutrients can support restful sleep. Some of the sleep-friendly foods that Somer highlights:

  • Salmon: The healthy omega-three fatty acids found in salmon don’t just work wonders on your brain and skin health, but they may boost natural levels of melatonin—the sleep-regulating hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Tip: Choose wild salmon over farmed; it will have higher levels of healthy fats and a better dose of vitamin D, which has also been shown to help stave off insomnia.
  • Legumes: Beans and other legumes are packed with vitamin Bs, such as B6, B12, and folic acid—all of which help you to regulate your sleep-wake cycles and boost your natural levels of serotonin, a feel-good, relaxing hormone. Tip: You don’t need to cook up a pound of lentils to get your Bs. Other sources of the B vitamins in the same legume family include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lupins, mesquite, carob, soy, and peanuts.
  • Yogurt: This dairy product is an excellent source of calcium and magnesium, which are sleep-friendly minerals that can help you fall asleep faster and stay in the restorative deep sleep longer. Tip: go for low-fat, low-sugar varieties or try Greek-style yogurt, which is high in protein and low on fat.
  • Dark, leafy greens: Your mother was right: eat your spinach! It’s a healthier way to get your iron than through red meat sources. Maintaining optimal levels of iron in your body may help protect you against a sleep disorder called restless leg syndrome, which has been linked to low iron. Tip: Can’t stand spinach and can’t pretend to be Popeye? Other sources of iron (besides red meat) include baked beans, kidney beans, pork loin, chicken liver, dark turkey, and (who knew?) molasses.

Eat up, rest up!

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™