Foods to Eat or Avoid for Good Night's Sleep

Woman eating in bed
One in three of us suffers from insomnia - but our diet may help. It's the middle of the night and you're just as wide awake as you were before you went to bed - perhaps even more so. There are certain things which we know not to do before bed if we want to get drift off quickly and get some quality shut-eye.

Unless you have a mammoth-like resistance to caffeine, coffee is obviously a big no-no. Using our phones or tablets before bed can also play havoc with us. Going to the bathroom, unless absolutely necessary, is to be avoided, too. It's also our diet which plays a part in our ability to get to sleep.

Author of The Good Sleep Guide, Sammy Margo, revealed in a study commissioned by Simba Sleep, the five surprising foods we should be snacking on before we turn in - and the five we should always avoid before bed.

What to Eat...


Christmas may be behind us for another year, but that lull we get after Christmas lunch happens for a good reason. A turkey doesn't just come in handy for Christmas,it contains tryptophan, explains Margo, which induces sleep.  So even though Christmas wasn't that long ago and you may be sick of the sight of it, it may be worth incorporating it on to your menu once in a while.


Not only does it taste delicious, but honey contains glucose which sends a message to the brain telling it to shut off orexin.  Also known as hypocretin, orexin is the pesky chemical which regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite. Useful in some scenarios, but not when you want to get some sleep. The glucose in honey can come in handy



These offer a sleep-inducing double-whammy. Not only do the grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production, raising blood sugar naturally, but they are also, according to Margo, rich in melatonin, a hormone which promotes sleep. Maybe add a bit of honey too to really get a good night's sleep.

See: More Health Benefits of Oats


It's not just turkey which contains tryptophan, almonds are also rich in it too. They also contain muscle-relaxant magnesium, which, along with tryptophan, helps to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while also steadying your heart rhythm, says Margo. 

It's once again magnesium which proves to be key. But that's not all bananas contain. They're also rich in sleep-promoting hormones serotonin and melatonin. These contain sleep-inducing magnesium
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And what to avoid...


Having a nightcap after a long and stressful day can be tempting. But alcohol actually prevents you from getting into the deeper stages of sleep, leading to grogginess the next day. Too much of it, and you're just hungover. Nothing cures a hangover and these things will actually make 'the morning after' worse. Steer clear of the booze.

See: Alcohol and Health: All you need to know

Spicy food

Depending on the individual, eating a spicy evening meal can cause indigestion. There are also claims that the active ingredient in chili pepper, capsaicin, may cause changes in body temperatures which in turn effect sleep.

Fatty foods

When we eat greasy and fatty foods, our stomachs needs to work extra hard to digest them. Tempting, but maybe save it for lunch. This in turn produces stomach acid which can spill over into the esophagus, which can then lead to heartburn.  Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat.


Hard cheeses and processed meats contain higher levels of the amino acid tyramine, which causes the brain to release a chemical that makes us feel alert.
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