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6 Best Sleep Inducing Foods

You may not realise it, but sleep has a massive impact on your health (1). And exercise performance (2,3).

So I want to share the 6 best foods to help you sleep…but obviously you need to square away the rest yourself, like your bed and your bedroom environment (- for example, a cool room)!!.

If you find yourself hanging out, tired, during the day, not feeling like you’re getting a decent night’s sleep and may be not recovering as well as you could from your training, and may be picking up a few more illnesses than normal. Then may be you need to look at your diet.

6 Best Foods…

  1. Turkey
    • High in protein, good source of *tryptophan, low fat
    • High protein foods before bed helps improve the quality of your sleep (1,4)
  2. Pumpkin Seeds
    • Really good source of plant protein and tryptophan, high in fibre and rich in essential fats (- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have numerous benefits, such as cholesterol levels, anti-inflammatory, heart and brain health)
  3. Kiwi fruit
      • Provides carbs, a source of fibre, low calorie, low fat, is packed full of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and some tryptophan (23)
      • A popular and commonly reported study, found having 2 kiwi an hour before bed helped improve time taken to fall asleep, sleep duration and quality of sleep (5), but it was only a small study and from 2011, so quite old now. More scientific research is required. But you could try it (unless you have an allergy or intolerance to kiwi!), to see if you get any benefit!
  4. Walnuts
    • Rich in plant protein, high in fibre, and contains magnesium, tryptophan, vitamins and minerals, and melatonin (6,7)
    • Magnesium is believed to enhance melatonin secretion in the body (1,8)
  5. Rice
    • Source of carbs; some protein; low fat (unless fried! Or if you add oil, butter or spread!); contains vitamins and minerals; some fibre, depending which type of rice you choose; tryptophan and a really good source of melatonin (9)
    • High carb foods before bed help you fall asleep quicker (4)
  6. Tart Cherry Juice
    • Rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, tryptophan and **melatonin (1,5,10,23)
    • It’s also been shown to have some benefit for muscle strength and soreness, but more research is required because the evidence isn’t conclusive

From my Instagram post:


You may have been wondering why I’ve been mentioning tryptophan – an essential amino acid. Well that’s because tryptophan converts to serotonin (11), which can convert to melatonin, (- and here’s another lil piece of info for you; it’s also used for making niacin, a B vitamin (11,12)).

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, that has an influence on our mood and sleep (13). The amount made in the body is dependent on how much tryptophan is available (1).

**Melatonin is a hormone that influences the sleep-wake cycle (1).

Sleep Deprivation

Good nutrition and sleep is essential for people in general, but also military personnel.

Sleep deprivation is common in the military (14), whether it’s due to being on stag, on Exercise or on Tours, but also military culture of hanging one on til the early hours, and then getting showered and changed into uniform and going to work! But sleep dep. impacts on the soldier’s health as well as compromising their performance in their duties (15).

Lack of sleep can influence our food choices. Such as data from the National Diet & Nutrition Survey has shown a link between sleep dep. and a lower fruit and veg intake (16). And typically people aren’t eating enough fruit and veg anyway (17). With fruit and veg obviously being good for overall health, our bowels and reduce our risk of some diseases (18).

So if we don’t sleep well, this can impact on our health, plus we might end up eating less fruit and veg, which could then also compromise our health. A lose lose situation.

Our lifestyle can influence our sleep and vice versa (19).

And exercise and sleep influence each other too (3).

Poor quantity and quality of sleep can delay and hinder our:

  • Physical and mental recovery from exercise (1,20)
  • Glycogen replen. and
  • Muscle damage repair

And in turn, DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness, can make us have poor sleep (20). So we need to make sure we recover well from exercise and get a good night’s sleep!

Click on image to read my article now!

As adults, we need 7-9hours quality sleep every night (21). I’m not going to go into the details of sleep here, but if you want to read about it, then a good place to start is the Sleep Council.

Some Things To Avoid Before Bed:

(As these can compromise your sleep!)

  1. Caffeine (1,22)
  2. Alcohol (1,22)
  3. Heavy meals (22)
  4. Really salty foods – from getting up to have a drink!

I hope you’ll put this into action and manage to get some better sleep!

You could keep a sleep diary and start it before you make any dietary changes, then continue once you’ve made the changes, to see the before and after effect. What works for you and what doesn’t.

If you found this useful, why not share this with your family and friends and help them get better sleep too!

P.S. I’m not suggesting you dash out and buy loads of supplement versions of the nutrients and substances that I’ve mentioned in this post, like magnesium, tryptophan, etc. I’d recommend a “Food First” approach – which is exactly that, so food before choosing supplements, and manipulating your diet to try to achieve your needs and goals.

A Registered Dietitian can help you with your diet.

Oh, and I wouldn’t recommend buying any melatonin, serotonin or tryptophan supplements, because they may be contaminated, fake, and these can interact with medications. You need to speak with your doctor first about these.

If you are struggling with your sleep, check out the Sleep Council, or the Mind charity for info about problems sleeping, or get an appointment with your doctor. There can be loads of reasons for poor sleep, and diet is just one aspect that can have an influence.



It is crucial to get your food and fluid intake right if you want to control your IBS symptoms and if you want train harder, go faster and recover quicker from training sessions and competitions. Dietary requirements are highly individualised and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Working with an Accredited Sports Dietitian to develop a bespoke plan based on your unique requirements will help to ensure the most appropriate strategy and best results are achieved.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new treatment or health care regimen, or before making any changes to your existing treatment, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Some References:

  1. Doherty, R., Madigan, S., Warrington, G., & Ellis, J. (2019). Sleep and nutrition interactions: implications for athletes. Nutrients, 11(4), 822.
  2. Kölling, S., Duffield, R., Erlacher, D., Venter, R., & Halson, S. L. (2019). Sleep-related issues for recovery and performance in athletes. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 14(2), 144-148.
  3. Bonnar, D., Bartel, K., Kakoschke, N., & Lang, C. (2018). Sleep interventions designed to improve athletic performance and recovery: A systematic review of current approaches. Sports medicine, 48(3), 683-703.
  4. Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 13-23.
  5. Lin, H. H., Tsai, P. S., Fang, S. C., & Liu, J. F. (2011). Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20(2), 169-174.
  6. Ros E. (2010). Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients, 2(7), 652–682. doi:10.3390/nu2070652
  7. Reiter, R.J.; Manchester, L.C.; Tan, D.X. Melatonin in walnuts: Influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood. Nutrition 2005, 21, 920-924.
  8. Healthline. (2017). How magnesium can help you sleep. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep#section3
  9. Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., & Korpela, R. (2012). Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food & nutrition research, 56, 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252. doi:10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252
  10. Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., … & Greenway, F. L. (2018). Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the treatment of insomnia and investigation of mechanisms. American journal of therapeutics, 25(2), e194-e201.
  11. Friedman M. (2018). Analysis, nutrition, and health benefits of tryptophan. International journal of tryptophan research : IJTR, 11, 1178646918802282. doi:10.1177/1178646918802282
  12. Fukuwatari, T., & Shibata, K. (2013). Nutritional aspect of tryptophan metabolism. International journal of tryptophan research : IJTR, 6(Suppl 1), 3–8. doi:10.4137/IJTR.S11588
  13. Young S. N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN, 32(6), 394–399.
  14. Grandou, C., Wallace, L., Fullagar, H. H., Duffield, R., & Burley, S. (2019). The effects of sleep loss on military physical performance. Sports Medicine, 1-14.
  15. Williams, S. G., Collen, J., Wickwire, E., Lettieri, C. J., & Mysliwiec, V. (2014). The impact of sleep on soldier performance. Current psychiatry reports, 16(8), 459.
  16. Noorwali, E. A., Cade, J. E., Burley, V. J., & Hardie, L. J. (2018). The relationship between sleep duration and fruit/vegetable intakes in UK adults: A cross-sectional study from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. BMJ open, 8(4), e020810.
  17. PHE. (2019). National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/772434/NDNS_UK_Y1-9_report.pdf
  18. BDA. (2017). Fruit and vegetables – how to get five-a-day. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/fruit_vegetables__how_get_five-a-day
  19. Pot, G. K. (2018). Sleep and dietary habits in the urban environment: The role of chrono-nutrition. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 77(3), 189-198.
  20. Nedelec, M., Aloulou, A., Duforez, F., Meyer, T., & Dupont, G. (2018). The variability of sleep among elite athletes. Sports medicine-open, 4(1), 34.
  21. Sleep Council. (2018). How much sleep do we need? Available from: https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/how-much-sleep-do-we-need/
  22. Sleep Foundation. (2019). What causes insomnia? Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/what-causes-insomnia
  23. St-Onge, M. P., Mikic, A., & Pietrolungo, C. E. (2016). Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 7(5), 938–949. doi:10.3945/an.116.012336

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