Food Tips

This Is What The Perfect Sleep-Inducing Meal Looks Like

best foods for sleep


You probably already know that a bad night’s sleep boosts hormones that promote hunger, meaning you’re more likely to overeat the next day. But now a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, says it goes the other way too: What you eat can wreck your sleep.

The researchers found that when the study participants ate a diet high in fiber, low in saturated fat (red meat and cheese), and adequate in protein,not only did they fall asleep faster that evening, but they slept sounder and deeper—they spent more time in restorative slow-wave sleep—and therefore felt more refreshed the following day. When the volunteers ate a diet higher in fat and sugar and lower in fiber, they took almost twice as long to fall asleep and they had 16% less time spent in slow-wave sleep.

fiber dinner


“The influence of fiber is new,” says Carl Bazil, MD, director of the Division of Epilepsy and Sleep at Columbia University’s medical school. He actually quit the Atkins diet because he felt the high-fat content led to fitful sleep. In addition to limiting caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals near bedtime, poor sleepers should take a look at their diet, Bazil says. “Avoiding heavy fat meals and encouraging fiber is worth recommending.”

So, what’s the perfect sleep meal look like?

“Start with a healthy, well-balanced, nourishing diet,” says the study’s lead author, Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, from the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at Columbia University’s medical school. “Make sure it’s got plenty of fiber from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes like lentils and beans. And then steer clear of unhealthy fats and refined sugar.”

You can shape your dozy dinner using these guidelines:

  • Cut back on red meat and fill your plate with fibrous whole grains and quinoa, lentils, or barley instead. One cup of barley has 32 grams of fiber.
  • Bulk up soups and salads by adding nuts, seeds, kidney beans, black beans, peas, or lentils. They’ll add protein and fiber, plus they’re rich in the amino acid tryptophan, says Nikki Ostrower of Nao Nutritionin New York City, just like turkey. Tryptophan stimulates production serotonin and melatonin, both of which can encourage a good night’s sleep.
  • Don’t skimp on veggies. Leafy greens are not only fibrous, but they’re magnesium rich, which helps calm you down, says Ostrower.
fruit for dessert


  • Eat fruit with the peel on it instead of sugar for dessert, she says.

“Whatever you eat, don’t eat too late,” says Ostrower. Take your last bite at least a couple of hours before bedtime, she recommends. “You need the body to focus on rest and recuperation while you’re sleeping, not digestion.”

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