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Eating Before Sleep: What to Eat Before Bed

Eating Before Sleep: What to Eat Before Bed

Brian W. Wu, MD, PhD

Brian W. Wu, MD, PhD

Dr. Brian Wu earned his MD and Ph.D from the Keck School of Medicine (University of Southern California). His Ph.D. is in integrative biology and disease for his research in exercise physiology and rehabilitation. He is currently a psychiatrist in his residency at LAC USC.

Sleep Tips
Read Time: 4 minutes
  • Nutrition plays a significant role in promoting good sleep, with certain foods such as fish, whole grains, dairy, cherries, almonds, chamomile tea, and walnuts helping induce and improve sleep quality due to their various beneficial components.
  • Avoiding certain foods such as fried and oily items, as well as caffeine-containing products like coffee, dark chocolate, and energy drinks before bedtime can help prevent disruptions in sleep and promote better rest.
  • Understanding the impact of different foods on sleep can lead to more informed choices when it comes to snacking before bedtime, ultimately contributing to improved sleep quality and overall well-being.

Most people fall into the temptation of having a snack when they have a difficult time sleeping. However, this could either help or prevent you from sleeping. You might want to grab the sweetest snack and end up staring at the ceiling all night. It can be difficult to make a healthy choice when you are frustrated and this can lead you to comfort foods.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Brian Wu, “Making healthy food choices is essential in maintaining health and as a preventative. Ongoing research demonstrates that eating a nutritionally balanced diet can keep us healthy longer.” 

Sleep is essential for you to function well. The food you eat before you sleep has a direct effect on whether you will sleep well or turn into an insomniac. About 41 million adults living in the United States are getting six hours or less of sleep at night. It is a well-known fact that not getting enough sleep increases the risk of suffering from obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and in some cases, may even lead to an early death. Even though stress is frequently declared as the main contributing factor for insomnia, your diet has a great influence too.

Here are the nutritional dos and don’ts for a good night’s sleep, along with some of the healthiest snacks to have before bedtime.

What You Should Be Eating Before Bed

foods to eat before sleep

If you are thinking of dinner or grabbing a snack, you can consider some foods that will help you sleep. 


Fish sleep with their eyes open, but you will get some shuteye by eating halibut, salmon, and tuna. These fish contain high amounts of Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is responsible for the production of melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles. So, the more fish you eat, the more melatonin your body is able to produce and higher the likelihood of you sleeping soundly. Other good sources of Vitamin B6 include bananas, oats, and chickpeas.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are high in magnesium content, which is extremely important for a good night’s sleep. Eating whole-grain cereals can easily induce some yawns and help your muscles relax.


Drinking a glass of warm milk or eating yogurt just before bedtime helps relax and eliminate the stress in your body. The calcium and vitamin D in dairy products helps your muscles relax. It might also reduce the odds of you getting up in the middle of the night for a snack because it can be pretty filling and wholesome.


Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice has been proven to help with sleep. Taking cherry juice before bedtime helps your body release melatonin. So, do not be surprised if you start dozing off on the couch after drinking some. It is a fun and delectable way to cure insomniacs and make them sleep like a baby!


Munching on almonds before bedtime helps your body produce magnesium and tryptophan. Both of these are essential for sleep since they relax the muscles and reduce nerve function. They bring a steady rhythm to your heart, which can help make you sleepy.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a traditional insomnia remedy. It contains a compound called apigenin that activates the GABA A receptors stimulating sleep. Tea also mentally prepares a person to go to bed.


Walnuts contain serotonin, melatonin, and magnesium that aids in sleep. If you are looking for a healthy snack, you can get a handful of walnuts.

All of these foods are great to munch on at night, but do not go in excess. Regardless of the health benefits, these snacks still have carbs and sugar, which stimulate your body. Keep it in moderation or you will still be up half the night.

Foods to Avoid Before Bedtime

If someone were to produce an “I don’t want to sleep tonight” starter kit, they would fill it with these foods. You should not be eating these foods before trying to sleep, no matter what you are doing the next day.

Fried food

Consuming fried food is a bad idea because all that fat in your belly needs acid to be digested. This acid can spill into your esophagus and cause a feeling of heaviness in your chest or heartburn.

Even if it has not been dipped in fry oil, avoiding all types of oily and salty foods before bed is a good plan of action. They are bound to kill your sleep and make your night uncomfortable.


The caffeine in coffee travels immediately to your brain and stimulates the Central Nervous System, keeping you alert and awake.

Try to avoid drinking any form of coffee after 6 P.M. so you do not have trouble sleeping. Pay attention to how coffee affects you. Some people need to have a much earlier cut off so they can still sleep soundly. In fact, dark chocolate and energy drinks like Red Bull also contain caffeine and should be avoided before going to bed.

Knowing what to eat is the first step in getting a good night’s sleep. Now that you know what is good for your sleep health, you can make better decisions the next time you find yourself going through your fridge. Enjoy your snacking and sleeping!

Christine Lapp is a full-time graduate student and part-time freelancer for Sleep Junkie. Since she was a little girl on the soccer field, Christine has had a love for sports, and she believes everybody should get up and get moving once a day. Now, she incorporates her love for exercise into her studies, pursuing a degree in exercise physiology. Christine understands that what you do during your waking hours has a direct impact on your night’s sleep. In our better sleep guides, she offers advice for developing healthy daytime habits to nurture a more peaceful slumber.