9 Foods Proven To Help You Sleep Better Naturally

Snack on these sleep-promoting foods if you're having trouble getting the z's you need.

December 21, 2017
sleeping woman
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Tired and stressed? Join the club. As many as 40% of Americans report having symptoms of insomnia at some point within a given year, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

It doesn't matter whether your shut-eye is being hampered by a time change, a stressful job, or some other problem in your life, being tired sucks. And it can lead to serious health problems including heart disease and depression.

(Slash your cholesterol, burn stubborn belly fat, solve your insomnia, and more—naturally!—with Rodale's Eat For Extraordinary Health & Healing!)

But before you reach for the latest prescription drug, reach for your fork; revamping your diet can go a long way towards improving your sleep quality, provided you opt for foods rich in the right sleep-inducing ingredients.  Below, nine foods that may be able to help you catch up on some much-needed sleep. 

Related: I Tried 3 Medication-Free Strategies To Solve My Insomnia And Here's What Happened

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In one small study, participants drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning, and another eight ounces in the evening, for two weeks and reported better sleeping habits. Why does it work? All varieties of cherries are naturally high in melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Eat a cup of whole cherries as a late-night snack if you’d rather not drink juice.

Related: How To Grow Cherries


Fish are rich in tryptophan, a natural sedative, with shrimp, cod, tuna and halibut having the highest levels, even more than turkey. But since not all seafood choices are healthy for you—some are high in contaminants—or for the planet—many are overfished, or methods for catching them kill other species—stick to catches like Pacific cod from Alaska or pole-caught Albacore tuna from the U.S. or British Columbia (avoid these 4 worst seafood choices you can make).

lemon balm in pot
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Lemon Balm

This lemon-scented member of the mint family has been a sleep-inducing superstar for ages, but it seems to be most effective in combination with another herb called valerian.  In one study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, 81 percent of people with minor sleep problems who took a combination of the herbs reported sleeping better than people on a placebo. Both can be purchased as supplements, or you can make a tea by steeping one to two teaspoons of dried lemon balm and one teaspoon of valerian root in a cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. If you take other medications, though, ask a doctor or pharmacist about any potential herb-drug interactions.

Related: How To Use Natural Melissa Oil For Indigestion, Cold Sores, Cramps, And More

Chamomile tea

Another herb that works as well as lemon balm, chamomile has been used as an herbal remedy for insomnia for thousands of years. In one animal study, it calmed down mice as effectively as tranquilizers, and in the only human study to study the effectiveness of chamomile, the herb reduced mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder much better than placebo. Ready-made chamomile teas are sold in every supermarket, so it’s an easy remedy to get your hands on.

Make this soothing calendula chamomile lotion to help you sleep:


These perfectly snack-sized superfruits are packed with potassium and magnesium, two minerals that promote muscle relaxation. In fact, magnesium deficiencies are related to restless leg syndrome and nighttime muscle cramps, two conditions that can certainly interfere with your sleep. Make it a goal to eat one banana a day to see if that helps your sleep problems. (Discover the one habit for better sleep you may have overlooked.)

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In addition to being rich in potassium and magnesium, spinach is high in calcium, yet one more mineral that plays a role in sleep. Calcium helps the body generate melatonin, the hormone that helps your body maintain its circadian rhythm. You can get the same benefits from other dark leafy greens, such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens and collard greens.

Related: How To Cook Any Leafy Green In Minutes

almond milk
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Like spinach, dairy products are rich in melatonin-boosting calcium, and a number of studies are finding that calcium deficiencies are linked to poor sleep quality. So there may be something to that old adage that a glass of warm milk will help you sleep, after all! (How many of these 10 mistakes you're making every time you go to bed are you guilty of?)

Related: What You Need To Know Before Buying Non-Dairy Milk—Plus The 6 Healthiest Brands To Try


They’re full of magnesium and yet another source of calcium. You can eat a handful of almonds or spread some almond-butter on a piece of whole grain bread, which will help you get to sleep for another reason.

Related: How To Make Your Own Almond Milk

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Carbs combined with protein

There’s some debate as to how well your body handles tryptophan, and a study from the National Institute of Health found that getting it from high-protein foods can work against you, because protein can prevent tryptophan from entering your brain. But when you combine high-protein foods with carbs, the insulin your body produces in response to the carbs makes it easier for tryptophan to break through your brain’s barriers. So for a sleepy snack think granola, oatmeal with bananas and almonds, or whole-grain cereal with organic milk.

Related: The 20 Highest Protein Vegetarian Foods