Eat This Way for a Good Night's Sleep


If you want to sleep better, you likely need to eat better. New research shows that when and what you eat could be the biggest factor in whether you get the rest you need.


Getting a good night's sleep actually starts with breakfast, according to Current Development in Nutrition: People who sit down to a good meal in the morning actually feel like they've slept better than those who chug a coffee on the go. They also were typically in a better mood and felt more alert. This study was conducted with young and otherwise healthy individuals.


Timing makes a big difference in general for improving sleep quality. For example, eating carbohydrates can help you get to sleep faster, but this works best if you eat them four hours before you want to fall asleep, research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed (in young and otherwise healthy individuals).

Eating to improve sleep quality


Watching what you eat can also make a difference. A study published in Current Sleep Medicine Reports suggests the Mediterranean diet is a good approach to try. The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of olive oil, as well as copious amounts of nuts, seeds and vegetables, according to Sleep Review. This diet allows for moderate amounts of dairy products and lesser amounts of meat.


Some foods contribute more to enhancing sleep quality due to compounds they contain, according to Medical News Today. Among these sleep-enhancing compounds are tryptophan, an amino acid; calcium; magnesium; and melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycles.


These are found in lots of foods, but selecting snacks high in these elements can pave the way to sweet dreams. 


For example, almonds are high in melatonin, calcium and magnesium. Because almonds also contain healthy fats while being low in sugar, they're ideal for an evening snack. 


Warm milk, that age-old prescription for falling asleep, contains plenty of tryptophan, as well as calcium. You could try warm almond milk if you prefer to avoid dairy products.

The sleep apnea connection


A study of overweight men published in Science Direct found that those who ate more in the evening may have diminished sleep quality in moderate and severe sleep apnea patients.1


A different study published in Science Direct found “the dietary inflammatory index (DII) could be sensitive and specific for predicting apnea severity in individuals commonly associated with OSA."2 Although the study did state that more research is needed to evaluate the risk for OSA symptoms.


Harvard Health Publishing says the most inflammatory foods include sodas, fried foods, refined carbohydrates, red meat and margarine.


Could improving sleep be as simple as eating better? It could be worth a try!


  1. Relationship of evening meal with sleep quality in obese individuals with obstructive sleep apnea Clinical Nutrition ESPEN 29 (2019) 231-236
  2. Association between inflammatory potential of the diet and sleep parameters in sleep apnea patients Nutrition Volume 66, October 2019, Pages 5-10

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