5 Nutrition Tips To Improve Sleep

5 Nutrition Tips To Improve Sleep

Lifestyle, environment and medical conditions contribute to sleep problems. But sleep nutrition can help. Here are five easy ways you can improve your sleep quality, easily and quickly, with nutrition.  

With 1 in 3 people suffering sleep issues,1 effects of a lack of sleep, such as feeling grumpy and lacking concentration, are obvious and experienced by many of us. But did you know that poor sleep quality can also have profound consequences on your health?

Sleep is a biological process that is essential for life and optimal health. Sleep plays a critical role in all areas: brain function, metabolism, appetite regulation, immunity, hormonal regulation and the cardiovascular system.

Short-term impacts of sleep disruption include increased stress response, aches and pains, infertility, mood disorders, cognitive, memory and performance deficits, and reduced quality of life. While long-term consequences increase the risk of chronic health problems such as hypertension, dyslipidaemia, cardiovascular disease, weight-related issues, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, and has also been shown to shorten life expectancy.1-3

So it’s no wonder that quality sleep is essential and it’s important to get your 6-10 hours every night.

Lifestyle, environment and medical conditions contribute to sleep problems. But sleep nutrition can help. Here are five easy ways you can improve your sleep quality, easily and quickly, with nutrition.

1. Kick the caffeine at night

Many of us need that coffee to get the engine going, so to speak, and we are not suggesting you deprive yourself of that. Coffee/caffeine has many benefits, but just not in the evenings for those with trouble sleeping. To decrease sleep disruption, and help you get to sleep easier, avoid chocolate, tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime. 

Instead, replace it with a relaxing chamomile or calming passionflower tea.

a. Chamomile – contains antioxidant apigenin that binds to certain receptors in your brain to promote sleepiness. Drinking chamomile has been shown to reduce time to fall asleep and improve overall sleep quality.4-6

b. Passionflower – also contains apigenin and has the ability to influence sleep. Additionally, passionflower has been studied for its potential to reduce anxiety by inhibiting brain chemicals that induce stress.4,7

2. Foods to improve sleep

Many of us have experienced the foods and drinks that tend to keep us awake – spicy, fried, sugary – and avoid eating them. But what should we be eating, and finish eating, no more than two hours before our head hits the pillow?

a. Turkey – a great food to eat before bed due to its high amounts of protein and tryptophan (which increases the production of melatonin), both of which may induce tiredness.4,8

b. Fatty fish (such as Atlantic salmon) – (>5% fat) are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients important for the regulation of serotonin and sleep regulation.4,8

c, Almonds – are a source of melatonin and the sleep-enhancing mineral magnesium, two substances that may make almonds a great food to eat before bed.4,8

d. Walnuts – may also promote better sleep by being a source of melatonin and healthy fats.4,8

3. Eat kiwi fruit before bed

Research has shown that the consumption of kiwi fruit may also be one of the best foods to eat before bed. Studies have shown they can increase your total sleep time, as well as increase sleep efficiency and decrease the wake time after the onset of sleep.4,8

There are several factors as to why kiwis might be the answer to your troubled night sleep. Most importantly, they are rich in antioxidants, high in both vitamins C and E, and contain high levels of serotonin. Each of these elements are proven to improve sleep quality.

Some researchers suggest eating two kiwis one hour before bed, over four weeks, to see an improvement in your sleep routine.4,8

4. Reduce processed sugar

This is one that you were probably expecting – processed sugar and alcohol is not good for sleep quality. Studies have shown that individuals with a diet high in processed sugar struggle with getting to sleep and poor quality sleep.9,10 Not to mention, sugar has been linked to several sleeping disruptions such as nightmares, night sweats and snoring.9

Another downfall to eating or drinking a lot of sugar before bed is that it can leave you feeling a bit anxious. Sugar, especially processed sugars, can cause your blood glucose levels to spike and crash, causing changes in your mood and making it harder to relax.

So for those of us who need a little sweetness after dinner: cut up a piece of fresh fruit, such as kiwi or some berries, mix with a few tablespoons of natural/Greek (no added sugar) yoghurt and sprinkle with pepitas and sunflower seeds or almonds – crunchy, sweet and full of nutrients conducive to good sleep.

5. Stress and relaxation support

It is no secret that stress can keep you staring up at the ceiling all night. So finding a routine that helps you wind down, and park any intrusive thoughts for the next day, will help. 

Here’s a list of relaxation techniques to try out, and there are plenty of apps around that can assist in finding the solution that works for you:

  • Meditation or guided imagery before getting into bed
  • Breathing exercises
  • Calming and sleep-time music
  • Lavender, and other relaxing essential oils, dabbed on your pillow
  • Changing the environment, such as noise, room temperature, pillow, mattress, lighting, screen time


NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. Crown copyright 2021, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/

Division of Sleep Medicine. Sleep and health. Harvard Medical School 2008, https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

Medic G, Wille M, Hemels MEH. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature Sci Sleep 2017;9:151-161.

Elliott B. The 9 best foods and drinks to have before bed. Healthline 2020, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep 

Salehi B, Venditti A, Sharifi-Rad M, et al. The therapeutic potential of apigenin. Int J Mol Sci 2019;20(6):1305. 

Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep 2010;3(6):895-901. 

Elsas SM, Rossi DJ, Raber J, et al. Passiflora incarnata L. (Passionflower) extracts elicit GABA currents in hippocampal neurons in vitro, and show anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects in vivo, varying with extraction method. Phytomedicine 2010;17(12):940-949. 

St-Onge MP, Mikic A, Pietrolungo CE. Effects of diet on sleep quality. Adv Nutr 2016;7(5):938-949. 

Admin HS. How sugar before bed ruins your sleep. Healthy Sleep 2022, https://healthysleep.org/sleep-health/sugar-before-bed/

Alahmary SA, Alduhaylib SA, Alkawii HA, et al. Relationship between added sugar intake and sleep quality among university students: A cross-sectional study. Am J Lifestyle Med 2019;16(1):122-129.

Note: Melrose has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care practitioner.

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