What Are The Best Foods That Will Help You Sleep?

Written by our in house Clinical Naturopath, Jen Cox. 


Never, and I mean NEVER, have I hit the supermarket with a perfect score. I stick true to that food shopping rule; always forget something. Shopping when tired is guaranteed to worsen this phenomenon. In the face of fatigue, we stand very little chance of managing an overstimulating supermarket environment with focus and conviction. 

In a venue custom built for distraction,  the stunted problem solving skills and memory impairment that come with fatigue make us far more inclined to a good ol’ impulse purchase.  One study even found significantly more calories ended up the trolleys of fatigued participants, compared with their well rested counterparts. Yeah, cheers for that, checkout treats display. Fatigue - absolute tool that it is - will also make you unnecessarily hungry from the unmediated ghrelin (a hunger hormone) floating about your body. 

So if you’re at the shops after a bad night’s sleep feeling hungry, distracted and tired: we understand that a complete list may not be doable. Instead, we will only ask you to remember 5 things.  

Make these top 5 foods for a sleep promoting diet you go-to default. Then, after a well deserved nap, take the ‘Your Best Sleep Shopping List’ for a spin - every single mention will provide nice high levels of sleep promoting nutrients to get you nodding yes… and then off.


1. Nuts and seeds

These babies are a triple threat, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. You’ll find Magnesium in most, a mineral well known for muscle relaxation and more restful sleep
Vitamin B6 hangs out in the likes of pistachios and sunflower seeds. This vitamin helps Tryptophan manage several outfit changes as it transform to Melatonin, your most magical sleep hormone ever. Walnuts and almonds actually contain Melatonin already, no wardrobe update required.
For a nutty little bonus, nuts and seeds are excellent for cardiac and brain health. Chronic bad rest, according to the clever clogs at Harvard Health, will damage both these systems so all that’s left to do is find some nuts and seeds, then load ‘em up.

2. Leafy Greens

We have another multitasker in the building... Time to stock up on greens, baby. These are great for healthy anyway -  they’re supportive of liver detoxification and digestion. When not functioning optimally, both these areas can influence sleep in a not so good way... so particularly if you wake up often, greens will give great bang for your buck. 
From a sleepy nutrition perspective, leafy greens have Magnesium and Calcium. Magnesium is great for relaxation, while Calcium serves as another member of the wardrobe team helping Tryptophan convert to Melatonin. Special shout out to broccoli too: who should make the top of your leafy cruciferous veggie pile with its natural Melatonin content.

3. Fresh (or frozen) fruit

Whether you find them in season or in the freezer aisle, cherries and pomegranate seeds are a tired person’s best friend. These both contain Melatonin and are high in the antioxidants required to nourish your struggling immune system - another unwelcome gift courtesy of limited shut eye. Bananas and apples are also terribly accommodating (and transportable) as far as snacks go. These contain plenty of Magnesium and Tryptophan to get your sleepy vibes flowing.

4. Seafood

Loads of quality seafood sources can help with sleep. From the humble sardine to tuna, salmon and even prawns, seafood tends to have B6, Tryptophan and Magnesium in spades.  Lack of sleep has been found to worsen inflammation, so the omega 3 fatty acids in seafood are a gold star bonus for your tired bod. Just be sure to watch out for good quality and sustainable fishing practices here.

5. Whole grains

Brown rice and oats are a great choice for their Tryptophan content. Corn is also a good option for Tryptophan and quite frankly delicious when barbecued. 
Overly processed or refined carbohydrates can impede your serotonin production (read: will foil that wholeheartedly diva-esque wardrobe transformation to get the Melatonin costume on) so ensuring you pick complex and whole grain options will make your plate well balanced.
If you’re into rice, there’s some evidence that say - consumed 4 hours pre-bedtime - this bright little spark will increase your Serotonin levels enough to make sleep measurably easier. *immediately purchases rice cooker*
Now that you have your basic sleepy food priorities down pat, try our shopping list next time you hit the market. Each item has B6, Tryptophan, Melatonin, Calcium and/or Magnesium in abundance, to get you nodding off before you can say “impulse buy.”  You can also find some nourishing, sleep promoting recipe ideas here


Your Best Sleep Shopping List

  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • flaxseeds
  • cashews
  • tomatos
  • asparagus 
  • broccoli
  • cucumber
  • baby spinach
  • sugar snap peas
  • kale
  • corn
  • pumpkin
  • natural yoghurt
  • olives
  • seaweed
  • oats
  • brown rice
  • chickpeas
  • kidney beans
  • pomegranate 
  • cherries
  • bananas
  • apples
  • avocados
  • peaches
  • grapes
  • chicken thighs
  • salmon
  • turkey
  • sardines
  • tinned tuna
  • herbal tea
  • Tags: Recipes, Science