What Is a Healthy Diet for Insomnia?

What Is a Healthy Diet for Insomnia?
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Food and Sleep

There are many potential causes of habitual sleeplessness from depression to indigestion. While food may not be the cause or the cure for insomnia, getting the right nutrition can help in many cases. In fact, nutritional deficiencies of calcium and magnesium can cause you to wake up after a few hours of sleep. Poor nutrition in general can affect sleep patterns, as can eating too close to bedtime.

A diet for insomnia includes foods that are high in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan. It also excludes stimulating foods, especially closer to bedtime. Learn how to eat your way to a better night’s rest.

What to Include to Promote Sleep Naturally

Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, yogurt, milk, fruit, and vegetables will help you get enough of the important nutrients. Calcium is found in dairy products as well as green leafy vegetables, almonds, and dates. Magnesium is found in melons, soy, nuts, brown rice, avocado, apples, garlic, and apricots. Whole grains are rich in the B complex vitamins which are also important for restful sleep and relieving stress.

Especially later in the evening great sleep-promoting foods include:

  • Bananas

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Milk


  • Yogurt

  • Cottage cheese

  • Nut butters

  • Tuna

  • Turkey

  • Brown Rice

They all include tryptophan, which encourages sleep. Also eating grains and vegetables (easy to digest carbohydrates) in the evening will help to induce sleep. Protein on the other hand may keep you awake.

Foods to Avoid so You Can Sleep

Aside from eating a nutrient-rich diet and focusing on tryptophan or carbohydrate-rich foods in the evening, it is important to avoid stimulating foods, especially later in the day. Coffee, cola, and tea should be strictly avoided at least six hours before bedtime. Sugary desserts late at night are not a good idea either. Do not eat heavy meals later in the day either. If digestive issues are causing insomnia then consider minimizing red meat, fried foods, and spicy foods. The following foods contain tyramine, which releases the brain stimulant nor-epinephrine. Try to stay away from these foods later in the day if you suffer from insomnia as they can act to keep you awake.

  • Chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sausage
  • Ham
  • Bacon

Using a diet for insomnia can act as a foundational step towards restful sleep. Do not underestimate the importance of nutrition in dealing with sleeplessness. As a lack of certain nutrients can make it difficult for the body to deal with stress and to combat common illnesses, improper diet can potentially be an indirect cause of insomnia. Eat well, get plenty of exercise (not right before bed), find ways to deal with stress, and sleep well.


Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone.” Eleventh Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

photo by: Magic Madzik (CC/flickr)

photo by: Italian voice (CC/flickr)


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