Eating for a Better Night’s Sleep: Why It Matters - Performance Kitchen

Everyone could use more sleep. In fact, nearly half of American adults don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours a night. Growing research suggests that poor sleeping patterns may be linked to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Whether you’re a student heading back to school or you’re getting back to your normal work routine, research suggests that the quality and quantity of your sleep impact learning and memory. If you are sleep deprived, your focus, attention, and vigilance will drift, making it more difficult to receive and retain information. Keep reading for my top tips on eating for a better night’s sleep.

What you eat throughout the day and right before bedtime can impact your sleep.

Food is your body’s fuel. A mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, a.k.a., macronutrients provide the nutrients you need for energy. Within these macronutrients are important micronutrients.

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are the essential nutrients your body needs. Vitamins play a role in your body’s energy production, immune function, and blood clotting. Minerals support growth, bone health, and fluid balance. Where do you find micronutrients? Food!

Research connects the consumption of certain micronutrients with getting a better night’s sleep. Which foods can you add to your plate to promote a better night’s rest? Here are certain micronutrients that may help improve your sleep, along with some of the best foods to find them in.


As a child, did your parents give you a warm glass of milk before bed? They may have, without knowing it, provided you one micronutrient that can help you sleep. Calcium is not just for strengthening bones and teeth, it also plays a role with helping your brain use the amino acid tryptophan to create melatonin, which promotes sleep.

Food sources:

Dairy products are known for being an excellent source of calcium, but don’t count out almonds, beans, dark leafy greens, tofu, and broccoli to provide you this micronutrient.


Having trouble staying asleep? Potassium can be helpful. Lack of potassium can also cause a hyperactive state, making it hard to fall asleep.

Food sources:

Bananas, cantaloupe, potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, peas, and cucumbers.


Good levels of vitamins B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12 may help achieve good sleep, as they help regulate your body’s level of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is a critical nutrient because it’s the precursor to your body’s serotonin production. Serotonin helps synthesize melatonin. Melatonin is produced at night and plays a fundamental role in regulating the body’s internal clock.

Food sources:

Whole grains, red meat, poultry, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, bananas, and citrus fruit.


Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters, which send signals throughout the nervous system and brain. Having a snack rich in magnesium right before bed can help calm and relax your body.

Food sources:

Nuts, seeds, tofu, spinach, dark chocolate, avocado, banana, and whole grains.

Nuts and Seeds

Vitamin D

According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, there is a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and excessive daytime sleepiness. The ‘sunshine vitamin’ is thought to influence both sleep quality and quantity.

Food sources:

There are a few food sources of vitamin D, such as swordfish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, shiitake mushrooms, and oysters, but research indicates that the optimal way to get your vitamin D levels up is through smart exposure to natural sunlight.

If vitamin D levels are low, supplementation may be recommended. Speak to your healthcare provider for more information.

Make a bedtime snack that contains these sleep supporting micronutrients. My personal favorite is a half a banana with peanut butter and a couple of dark chocolate chips.