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How to Get Better Sleep Through Diet and Nutrition

Sleep plays a crucial role in our health. With a few small changes, you can get better sleep and live a happier life.

Person sleeping with illustration of moons, and stars

Sleep is a fundamental part of life. It is essential to our physical and mental health. We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep allows the body to repair and rejuvenate itself and helps the brain be more alert, focused and creative the next day.

There are many reasons why people don't get enough sleep. Stress, lack of time, even work responsibilities can all contribute to a restless night. We know that the lack of sleep can have adverse effects on our health, but we never really think about it until we start feeling the effects, and they can be debilitating when we get poor quality sleep over an extended period.

As a result of intense sleep research, it's clear that there are many ways the foods we eat can help to improve or reduce our quality of sleep. Let's take a closer look at them now.


It's well-known that caffeine can reduce sleep quality. Caffeine is a stimulant that can improve your mood and concentration. However, caffeine has an antagonist effect on adenosine, which is the neurotransmitter that makes you sleepy.


Drinking coffee at night before bedtime can make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try swapping to decaf coffee or herbal tea in the evening.

Protein-rich Foods

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that comes from protein. It helps regulate sleep as well. This is because tryptophan is used to make melatonin, the hormone that helps maintain our sleep cycle.

Our body doesn't produce tryptophan on its own, so we need to rely protein-rich foods in our diet for it.


To promote better sleep, focus on eating protein-rich foods such as eggs, fish and poultry. Almonds, soybeans, and other nuts are also great sources of tryptophan.

Low GI Foods

Low-glycemic index (GI) foods release glucose slowly into the bloodstream. These foods help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and insulin resistance.

But interestingly, researchers found that some people (women in post-menopause) who ate a low-GI diet were less likely to suffer from sleep disturbances and insomnia.

Wholegrain cereals
Image credit: Marilyn Barbone

If you experience insomnia, you could try incorporating more low GI foods into your diet. Apart from helping with your sleeplessness, it will also be good for your overall health.


Some examples of low GI foods include:
Brown rice
Plain yoghurt and other non-sweetened dairy foods 

Omega 3 Fats and Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a condition that occurs when the immune system is activated for a prolonged period. It can be caused by several things, like physical trauma, illness, and lifestyle. Research has shown a connection between inflammation and disrupted sleep in recent years.

Omega 3s can be used to help with inflammation, and there have also been studies looking at the effectiveness of Omega 3 in improving sleep. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats found in certain types of fish and in some plants.

The results of Omega 3 have seen some benefits in sleep quality in some populations, but it is mixed. However, a wide range of health benefits from a diet rich in omega-3 fats exist. This includes brain and heart health and hopefully sleep as well.


Some good sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and oils like canola and soybean oil.

Final thoughts

If left unchecked, disturbed sleep can start to take a toll on health and wellbeing. Dietary factors like protein intake and low-GI foods are worth exploring to help play a supportive role in improving your sleep, in conjunction with other strategies.



Zhao M, Tuo H, Wang S, Zhao L. The effects of dietary nutrition on sleep and sleep disorders. Mediators of inflammation. 2020 Oct;2020.

Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food & nutrition research. 2012 Jan 1;56(1):17252.



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