What you eat affects how easily you fall asleep and the quality of the sleep you get. Some foods help your brain to calm down, while others stimulate it. If you have trouble getting to sleep or sleeping well, your food intake may be unwittingly causing problems.

Foods containing an amino acid called tryptophan are known to induce sleep. Foods containing tryptophan can help make you sleepy, and sleep better through the night. Foods without this substance may disturb your sleep.

Further, eating carbohydrates alongside foods containing tryptophan works best. So, for dinner and bedtime snacks, eat something high in complex carbohydrates with a little tryptophan-containing protein to relax your brain, with some calcium too. A sugary, carbohydrate-only snack is likely to stimulate you and make it hard to sleep.

These foods contain high amounts of sleep-provoking tryptophan:

  • whole grains
  • hummus, sesame seeds
  • dairy foods e.g. milk, cheese
  • meats, poultry, eggs, seafood
  • beans
  • hazelnuts and peanuts
  • soy foods e.g. tofu, soybean nuts

Dinners to help you sleep

Lighter meals are better to help you relax. Avoid high-fat meals and large servings because they make your digestive system work too hard and may keep you awake. It’s actually better to go to bed with a comfortable, not a full stomach. You may feel like you fall asleep faster, but your sleep is likely to be disrupted through the night. Try these meals to help you relax and sleep:

  • pasta/macaroni and cheese
  • meat or poultry with vegetables
  • stir-fry tofu
  • scrambled eggs and cheese
  • seafood with cheesy pasta

Good bedtime snacks

These foods are high in carbohydrates and calcium, as well as containing moderate amounts of protein to induce sleep. Keep in mind that it takes about an hour to digest food, so plan to have these an hour before bed:

  • whole-grain cereal and milk
  • raisin and oatmeal cookies with milk
  • apple pie with ice cream
  • hazelnuts with tofu
  • peanut butter sandwich and ground sesame seeds.

If you are not sure or skeptical, why not conduct your own experiment and try it for a week?