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How to eat and drink for better sleep

food as medicine lifestyle mental health nutrition nutritional psychiatry sleep

If you've been struggling with sleep, it might be a good time to have a closer look into what you eat and drink, not just right before bed, but consistently through the days.

Starting with the drinks: it is a no-brainer that caffeine affects sleep, so try to limit those cups of joe and any other caffeinated drinks to at latest 3 pm. 

Now, if you are used to winding down with that glass of wine and fall asleep quickly but have a hard time staying asleep through the night, or wake up not feeling refreshed, alcohol might be the culprit. Alcohol is a sedative, but it disrupts the REM sleep, giving you a poor quality sleep and also impacting your mental performance on the next day [1]. Try removing that habit for a while and observe how it impacts your sleep. A much better choice would be a cup of camomile tea, which has been shown to improve quality of sleep [2].

Regarding food, people tend to focus on what they should not eat, but in many cases it might be exactly the opposite - they might be lacking a variety of foods in their diet which are sleep-promoting.

The first category includes Omega-3s. It has been shown that some fatty acids are responsible for the production of sleep-promoting substances in the brain, and also increase deep sleep. Some natural plant sources of Omega-3s are chia seeds and walnuts, which sound like a perfect combination for a late snack. Eating right before bed can also impact your sleep, so take your last bite of food at latest 2 hours before going to bed.

Another category is related to melatonin, which is a hormone connected to our circadian rhythm and therefore also really important when it comes to sleep. You might only have heard about the supplement, but melatonin also occurs naturally in foods such as almonds, cherries and barley [3]. That's another reason to increase the diversity of your diet.

Finally, tryptophan is an amino-acid that affects the production of serotonin in the body, and can be used to treat insomnia [4]. Tryptophan can be found for example in oats - therefore it might not be a bad idea to have an oatmeal for dinner or as a night snack. Combine that with the chia seeds, walnuts, almond and cherries (are you also salivating?) and you got yourself a sleep-promoting combo that sounds delicious and is also good for you. 

Wishing you many nights filled with restorative Zzzzzzs!


How we can help

At mind∙body∙food∙pain, we use the power of Nutritional Psychiatry and Food as Medicine to take advantage of the benefits that plant foods can offer us to improve our mental health, our mood and our sleep. Check our Brain Health program and get in touch with us to learn more.



[1] Zheng, D., Yuan, X., Ma, C., Liu, Y., VanEvery, H., Sun, Y., Wu, S., & Gao, X. (2021). Alcohol consumption and sleep quality: a community-based study. Public health nutrition, 24(15), 4851–4858.

[2] Hieu, T. H., Dibas, M., Surya Dila, K. A., Sherif, N. A., Hashmi, M. U., Mahmoud, M., Trang, N., Abdullah, L., Nghia, T., Y, M. N., Hirayama, K., & Huy, N. T. (2019). Therapeutic efficacy and safety of chamomile for state anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials and quasi-randomized trials. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 33(6), 1604–1615.

[3]  Salehi B, Sharopov F, Fokou PVT, Kobylinska A, Jonge L, Tadio K, Sharifi-Rad J, Posmyk MM, Martorell M, Martins N, Iriti M. Melatonin in Medicinal and Food Plants: Occurrence, Bioavailability, and Health Potential for Humans. Cells. 2019 Jul 5;8(7):681.

[4] Hudson, C., Hudson, S. P., Hecht, T., & MacKenzie, J. (2005). Protein source tryptophan versus pharmaceutical grade tryptophan as an efficacious treatment for chronic insomnia. Nutritional neuroscience, 8(2), 121–127.



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