9 Best Fruits and Vegetables to Help You Sleep
Brittany Ford, RHN
Brittany Ford is certified as a holistic nutritionist by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN). She also hosts the Biohacking with Brittany podcast. In her practice, Brittany focuses on improving gut health and troubleshooting skin problems through diet.
About 70 percent of adults in the United States struggle with sleep, and sometimes the problem is their diet. Eating high-fat, sugary, or spicy foods right before bed makes it difficult to fall asleep. In addition, spicy foods can lead to acid reflux and other discomforts that disrupt sleep.
Eating high-fat and sugary foods before bed results in blood sugar spikes, so instead of feeling drowsy at bedtime, you feel alert.
In our article, we’ll go over some of the best fruits and vegetables for sleep and their many health benefits.
The Best Fruits for Sleep
Pineapple contains high levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm. Melatonin induces sleep by relaxing the muscles and slowing down nerve activity. A small study found that consuming pineapple before bed raised melatonin levels by 266 percent.
Figs are an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that improves sleep quality and sleep duration. Magnesium deficiency is tied to sleep deprivation—magnesium maintains GABA neurotransmitters which helps relax muscles and reduce brain activity. If you have low magnesium levels, you may struggle to fall asleep.
Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan and vitamin B6, which transforms tryptophan into serotonin, which increases melatonin production. The neurotransmitter serotonin regulates melatonin production, a sleep-inducing hormone. The body can’t produce tryptophan naturally, so we need to consume it.
Kiwis are an excellent source of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that slows down nerve signals to the brain. Eating one to two kiwi fruits before bedtime helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Kiwis are also packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.
Tart cherries contain melatonin and phytochemical procyanidin B-2, which protects tryptophan as it travels to the brain. Tryptophan can’t cross the blood-brain barrier independently, but phytochemical procyanidin B-2 helps tryptophan reach the brain. Drinking cherry juice before bed also improves sleep quality.
The Best Vegetables for Sleep
Sweet corn is rich in melatonin—eating sweet corn before bed can provide a night of restful sleep. Raw sweet corn, in particular, also contains 10 percent of your daily recommended magnesium.
Whole grains are carbohydrate-rich foods that improve sleep time, and sweet corn is a good substitute if you’re gluten intolerant. Sweet corn digests quickly and also won’t aggravate acid reflux.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Green leafy vegetables, including spinach, collard greens, and swiss chard, contain calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Calcium helps generate melatonin in the body. Both potassium and magnesium relax tense muscles and help induce sleep.
Sweet potatoes boost complex carbohydrates to help you feel drowsy, and these provide the body with steady energy to improve recovery while you sleep. Sweet potatoes also have potassium to relax muscles and calm the nervous system. Sweet potatoes are also a good choice for Restless Legs Syndrome—the potassium can soothe hyperactive nerves and enable better sleep.
What drinks help you sleep?
Some of the best drinks for sleep include milk, tart cherry juice, and certain herbal teas. Milk and tart cherry juice contain high amounts of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm. Herbal teas, like chamomile and lavender, act as natural sleep aids to relax tense muscles and soothe stress, helping you unwind after a long day.
How long should it take to fall asleep?
It should take about 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. If it takes less than 10 minutes to fall asleep, you may not be getting enough sleep each night. If it consistently takes longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, you may have a sleep disorder, like insomnia. If you struggle to sleep despite following healthy sleep hygiene, you should speak with a healthcare professional for support.
What can help me fall asleep?
The best way to fall asleep is to establish a bedtime routine, including going to bed and waking up at a specific time and turning off electronic devices an hour before bed. Plus, creating a restful sleep environment in the bedroom improves sleep quality. A dark, cool room is ideal for the best sleep.
Does lying down with your eyes closed count as sleep?
Resting your eyes doesn’t count as sleep, but lying with your eyes closed helps the body and mind relax, and could help you fall asleep later that night. When you rest your eyes, you’re subconsciously telling your brain to take a break—muscles start to relax and breathing deepens. Resting your eyes can improve your mood and help you gain control over your emotions.
Should I stay in bed if I can’t sleep?
If you’re tossing and turning and can’t seem to fall asleep, it’s better to get up and leave the bedroom. The bedroom should be a place to relax, but forcing yourself to stay in bed increases stress and further inhibits sleep. It’s better to leave the room and do a small activity, like writing in your journal or reading a book. Once you start feeling sleepy, go back to bed.
Snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables satiates your hunger and improves sleep quality. Fruits and vegetables, including bananas, kiwi, and sweet potatoes, are rich in sleep-inducing nutrients, like melatonin and tryptophan. So next time you’ve got a sweet tooth before bed or craving for something crunchy, cut up some fresh pineapple or grab a handful of carrots for quality sleep.
“It’s normal to have nights where you feel you need more food before bed than usual, or you wake up in the middle of the night hungry looking for a snack,” says Brittany Ford, RHN. “Rather than tossing and turning trying to ignore the hunger, it’s better to get up and have a quick bite and fall asleep easier after. If this becomes consistent, meaning you wake up every night hungry, or struggle falling asleep without a lot of food before bed, it may be indicative of something else going on.”
Additionally, Ford adds, “Speaking with a sleep expert can be very helpful for these types of concerns. Additionally, sometimes people go through a period of high stress that significantly disrupts their sleep, such as having a new baby or losing a job, so it’s to be expected to have more disruptive sleep during this time. Eating healthy foods before bed or when you wake up can support you during these abnormal times. However, if this stretches beyond a few months, it’s important to seek professional help to get your sleep back on track.”