10 Foods to Eat for Better Sleep (That Aren't Chamomile Tea)

Start eating your way to better sleep by adding these relaxation-prompting, snooze-inducing foods to your plate.

Foods That Help You Sleep: bowl of cherries on a pedestal
Photo: Getty Images

Shortchanging your sleep makes you feel pretty crummy, but the impact is even worse than you may think. Poor sleep can weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to viruses; it ups your risk of injury during intense workouts; and it can alter your appetite-regulating hormones, making you feel hungrier while simultaneously intensifying cravings. Our need for sleep is no joke, yet according to the CDC, we're a sleep-deprived nation, with up to one-third of Americans failing to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

And did you know you can set yourself up for a better night's rest by adopting healthy pre-bedtime eating habits? You may have already heard that milk or chamomile tea can help you sleep, and both hold true: Milk contains melatonin, the natural sleep-regulating hormone, while chamomile tea is packed with antioxidants that boost relaxation and improve sleep quality.

But these two drinks aren't your only options. Several nutrients have a positive effect on shut-eye. Here are 10 more foods that can help you sleep better, according to science and nutritionists, plus delicious ways to incorporate them into your routine.

01 of 10


Spicy Almond-and-Seed Salad Topper Recipe
Victor Protasio

Just a handful of almonds, about 1 ounce, supplies nearly 25 percent of the magnesium women need per day, which can improve sleep quality. Magnesium is an essential mineral that's sorely lacking in our diets—in fact, data indicates that many of us aren't consuming sufficient amounts of magnesium. Plus, research suggests that poor magnesium levels may be related to insomnia. In order to fall asleep, your brain needs to chill out, and magnesium may help with the process.

Because of their high magnesium levels, almonds are one of the top foods that help you sleep better. You can snack on almonds, mix them with yogurt, or sprinkle them on salads.

02 of 10

Tart Cherries

Sour cherry vinaigrette is drizzled on top of a gem lettuce salad.
Victor Protasio

Tart or sour Montmorency cherries are high in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. In one small study, participants experienced longer and more refreshing sleep after consuming a juice concentrate made from this fruit. "Research has found that adding tart cherries to your diet can improve both quality and quantity of sleep in individuals who suffer from insomnia," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD. Fresh tart cherries are harder to find than sweet ones, but you can find them frozen, dried, or in juice form.

03 of 10

Leafy Greens

Baby Kale and Chicken Caesar Recipe
Caitlin Bensel

"Adding magnesium-rich foods to your plate can clearly help to improve sleep, especially in individuals who suffer from middle-of-the-night insomnia, where they wake up and are unable to fall back asleep," says Palinski-Wade. To make sure you're meeting your magnesium needs each day, start eating more leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, and a variety of whole grains. Leafy greens are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which decreases stress. Try arugula, spinach, chard, or kale.

04 of 10


Three raspberry smoothie bowls displayed on a floral tablecloth.
Christopher Testani

Most adults need between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day (men are at the higher end of the spectrum) and 1 cup of raspberries provides a whopping 8 grams. If you're like 95 percent of Americans, you're probably falling short on fiber, and that can take a toll on your sleep patterns. One study from 2016 found that a lower-fiber diet was linked to less deep, restorative sleep. Eating more fiber was associated with a longer period of high-quality sleep.

RELATED: 6 Types of Fruit That Are Loaded With Fiber

05 of 10


Kiwi-Cucumber Relish
Victor Protasio

Kiwi isn't just a superfruit packed with fiber and antioxidants. It also contains serotonin, a brain chemical known to regulate your sleep cycle. This little green fruit can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Researchers of a small study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that kiwi consumption may have improved "sleep onset, duration, and efficiency" in adults who reported experiencing sleep disturbances. Have one to two kiwis before bed to help bring on the Zzzs.

06 of 10


This recipe for hummus and cucumber toast pairs Persian cucumbers with hummus and a sprinkle of za'atar spice mix.
Caitlin Bensel

Digging into that hummus never sounded so good. This legume is a plant-based source of tryptophan, the amino acid also found in turkey that can increase the production of melatonin.

07 of 10


Slow-Roasted Citrus Salmon Recipe
Caitlin Bensel

The power combo of omega-3 and vitamin D can improve sleep quality by helping to increase the production of serotonin, and salmon is a top-notch source of both. According to Palinski-Wade, omega-3 fatty acids also help to decrease your body's amount of stress hormones. Unlike other types of fat, omega-3 fatty acids are considered "essential," meaning you have to get them from your diet because your body is unable to create them itself. A 3.5-ounce portion of wild-caught salmon has 2.6 grams of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Mackerel is another great fatty fish for stress reduction (and sound sleep).

08 of 10


Overnight Oats With Strawberries and Toasted Almonds
Jen Causey

In a study that looked at the sleep differences among several diets—higher in protein, fat, or carbs compared to a standard control diet—participants experienced fewer sleep disturbances on the high-carb diet compared to any of the others. (That's right, carb lovers!) Oats are a healthy whole grain source of carbohydrates and s a good source of magnesium. Get your day off to the right start—and finish—by enjoying a bowl of overnight oats for breakfast.

09 of 10


Chimichurri Yogurt Dip
Victor Protasio

If you're not already paying attention to your gut health, here's a reason to start: Your microbiome, which is the collection of trillions of bacteria in your gut, is connected to your sleep patterns. An increasing amount of research signals that your microbiome is involved in regulating your sleep rhythms and quality, in addition to things like mood and stress levels. In fact, the species of bacteria in your gut likely adhere to a circadian rhythm much like we do!

One of the best ways to keep your microbiome healthy is to add to the collection of good bacteria with probiotic-rich foods. In one study, eating a yogurt snack three or four times a week was shown to increase beneficial gut bacteria and the diversity of bacterial strains—both of which indicate a healthy microbiome. Of course, it's easy to pick up a container of yogurt, but it's actually not that difficult to make it yourself.

10 of 10

Citrus Fruits

Every-Citrus Salad with Almonds and Manchego Recipe
Caitlin Bensel

High stress levels can also make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. "In addition to adding regular exercise to your day and practicing deep breathing, eating foods rich in vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce circulating stress hormones in the body," explains Palinski-Wade. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, clementines, lemons, and limes. Strawberries and legumes are also packed with vitamin C.

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