Foods That Promote Sleep

Foods That Promote Sleep

Jul 05, 2023Tori Sajovec, RD, LD

Do you play the blame game after a terrible night’s rest? Maybe you accuse the stressors of the day, your phone’s blue light, or your spouse tossing and turning from getting sound, solid sleep. Yet, believe it or not, there’s a major contributor that disrupts our peaceful zzz’s that many of us don’t even think about: our nighttime food selections.

What you choose to eat for dinner, or that late-night snack attack, can either help or halt the process of how you hit the hay.

Foods for Good Sleep

  1. Sweet Potatoes: We’re not talking the fry form. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin B6, which boosts melatonin, the hormone that is helpful in falling asleep. For quick cooking, just pop them in the microwave, then take note of how quickly you drift off once your head hits the pillow.
  2. Kiwi: Cover up with your comforter after enjoying this sleep-inducing produce pick. Kiwifruits are rich in folate; studies have shown that a deficiency in this nutrient may lead to insomnia. Sweet dreams are near after eating this naturally sweetened fruit.
  3. Cottage Cheese: Don’t count sheep; eat cottage cheese. Cottage cheese contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps support the sleep-inducing hormone serotonin. Plus, this dairy option is rich in a slow-releasing protein called casein that wards off hunger, keeping you sound asleep all night long.
  4. Almonds: Move over, chips. There’s something else to crunch on before drifting off to dreamland: Almonds contain both calcium and magnesium, the perfect duo to calm the body and relax our muscles.
  5. Cherries: These sweet, plump, little round friends naturally contain melatonin, a chemical that is critical in regulating the sleep-wake cycle in humans. Consuming 8 ounces of tart cherry juice before bed has been shown to improve sleep duration and sleep quality among healthy men and women, and might help manage disturbed sleep.

Avoid These Foods for Better Sleep

  1. Ice Cream: Sugar-filled treats may cause insulin spikes, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Plus, late night snacking on high-sugar foods leads to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. That, in itself, is a disaster for shut-eye.
  2. Fatty Foods: Yep, we’re talking the burgers, pizza and fries we all know and love. High-fat foods take longer to digest, and your body can’t enter relax mode until then. In addition, bloating and indigestion are often associated with these meals, so say sayonara to a peaceful sleep.
  3. Beer: This popular pre-bedtime beverage may be worth removing if you’ve noticed your restful snooze has suffered. Alcohol causes dehydration, which can lead to muscle cramping in the middle of night. Beyond that, extra liquid has to go somewhere, so don’t be surprised to take multiple bathroom breaks, disrupting the dreams along the way.
  4. Caffeine: Even if you are feeling drained, reaching for coffee, an energy drink or even chocolate in the afternoon or evening may backfire. Many people can get extremely stimulated from caffeine – if you know you are one of them, be aware of when you need to put the coffee mug away. Opt for some decaffeinated tea, a warm bath, or reading prior to bedtime.
  5. Spicy Foods: Buffalo sauce definitely kicks it up a notch! Consuming spicy foods prior to resting will most likely kick it up quite a few notches as they are linked to heartburn and indigestion. Your core body temperature can also increase, which may not create the best sleeping environment.

Here is a delicious and easy bedtime snack – Chamomile-Honey Mini Muffins; chamomile relaxes muscles and has a mild sedative effect. If you are looking for less added sugar and sweetness, you can also cut the honey and brown sugar added in half. Now it’s time to take ownership of your sleep – or lack thereof. Of course there are things out of your control, such as wicked weather or newborn babies. However, modifying what you eat may make or break your restorative night’s rest.

Chamomile-Honey Mini Muffins

Serves 12

All you need:

3 Stash chamomile tea bags

½ c. Hy-Vee 2% reduced-fat milk

½ c. Full Circle organic pure honey, plus additional, warmed, for serving

1 c. plus 2 tbsp. Bob's Red Mill whole wheat flour

2 tbsp. Hy-Vee brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. Hy-Vee baking soda

1 tsp. Rumford baking powder

¼ tsp. Celtic Sea Salt

1 Hy-Vee large egg, lightly beaten

¼ c. banana, mashed

2 tbsp. Carrington Farms Organic Flax Cooking Oil

Fresh thyme, for garnish

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with nonstick spray; set aside.
  2. Cut strings off tea bags and place bags in a medium saucepan. Add milk and ½ cup honey. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags; set tea aside.
  3. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.
  4. Combine milk and honey mixture, egg, banana, and flax oil; add all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened; batter will still be lumpy.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each half to two-thirds full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Dip muffins in to warmed honey and, if desired, garnish with fresh thyme.


Lack of sleep is tied to so many things; stress, messing with our hunger and fullness cues, and many other emotional situations. Let our Hy-Vee Dietitian work with you to get back on track by putting together a plan to support your lifestyle and manage all of those priorities. Sign up for a free, 30-minute discovery session with our Hy-Vee Dietitians here.

 *The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

About the Registered Dietitian       

Tori Sajovec RD, LD, received her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics with a minor in English from Iowa State University. From there, her passions took her to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she completed her 10-month dietetic internship program through Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. As her knowledge of food and nutrition grew, so did her desire to educate customers and clients on their overall well-being. Her goal as a dietitian is to make health and wellness an insightful and enjoyable lifestyle for all.

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