Nutrition Articles

Nutrition Tips and Supplements for Insomnia

Dietary Changes for a Better Night's Sleep

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Is a good night’s sleep eluding you?
Tossing and turning the whole night through,
Drowsiness, fatigue, a lack of sleep,
There is more help than just counting sheep.


There are many factors that can cause sleep problems, and even more potential solutions. The steps you take to improve your sleeping patterns will be individual, based on the cause of your insomnia and the treatment plan laid out by your health care provider. In addition to the many lifestyle changes that can help you sleep better, the following nutrition tips and supplements may also help improve the quality and quantity of your shut-eye:

Stop eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. If your body is trying to digest food, you won't be able to fully relax, fall asleep or stay asleep.

Limit: fried and fatty foods, refined carbohydrates (such as white rice, breads, pasta, and sugars), and spicy foods (especially if you are prone to heartburn), especially before bedtime. The effects of these foods can interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep.

Enjoy a light snack approximately two hours before bedtime, as falling and staying asleep can be difficult if you are hungry. A healthy snack can help take the edge off of your hunger and help you sleep through the night. Your snack should contain mostly carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. This combination may help increase the availability of tryptophan (an amino acid that helps induce sleep) to your brain. A few pre-bedtime snack ideas include:
  • A small bowl of oatmeal
  • Cereal with low-fat milk
  • Yogurt with granola sprinkled on top
  • Half of a bagel topped with peanut butter
  • A piece of whole wheat bread with one slice of deli turkey
  • Six whole-grain crackers with one ounce cheese
  • Sliced apple with one ounce cheese or peanut butter
Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep quickly, but it can disrupt your normal sleep patterns and leave you feeling un-rested the next morning.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Real good article. I like to have a whole grain Thomas' Muffin low fat toasted with natural peanut butter, or Skippy's 60% less sugar chocolate natural peanut butter with Smucker's No Sugar Boysenberry or Simply Fruit Strawberry jam as my "Nod Off" helper! :P
    - 10/10/2013 2:33:53 PM
  • I watched an episode of the 'food hospital' on the cooking channel about a guy that used to wake up in the middle of the night and need to eat 'crisps' (chips), cakes and other high calorie foods- they called it 'night eating' or something. In the past, I used to eat at night to help me fall asleep and I have found that the same thing would happen- i'd wake up and want to eat to go back to sleep. BAD cycle! I think that cutting the lesser quality foods from my diet has really helped. I don't wake up in the middle of the night needing a banana, lol (which is usually what my night snack is)! - 10/3/2013 7:03:26 PM
  • Great article. I have learn something about when you can't sleep what to do. - 7/9/2013 7:09:22 PM
  • FIRECOM
    This article comes at a very good time for me. I have never had trouble sleeping in my life until the last few months. I am going to take steps outlined here to see if I can get back to a better sleep pattern. - 3/17/2013 1:14:25 PM
  • I'm going to try the Valerian Root - 3/5/2013 8:56:07 PM
  • At the suggestion of his doctor, I use melatonin to help my son with Autism wind down to sleep. It worked wonders at first, but we've had to increase to dose and it's not working as well now.
    My own biggest sleep challenge is just getting myself to stop what I'm doing and go to bed! I like my alone time after the kids are asleep, but I pay for it the next day and in general with slower weight loss and increased pain from my fibromyalgia. - 3/5/2013 2:20:06 PM
  • PETTIFOR
    Great article! Want to share a supplement that has worked wonders for me. Tranquilo was developed by a Neurologist specializing in sleep study, and there are no side affects. I found it at www.zzzallnight.c
    om - 5/28/2012 8:32:29 PM
  • VPOMYG01
    We attended a camp for RAD kids--(reactive attachment disorder) and the director of the camp said that melatonin is produced naturally by the body, and if you take a supplemental dose, that interferes with the natural production of melatonin. Then the body will not produce it any longer. So her comment was basically--don't take melatonin. - 11/6/2011 8:16:07 AM
  • Dried valarian root creates a degree of depression. The tincture does not do this. - 11/5/2011 5:28:13 AM
  • HYACINTH_GIRL
    I've taken melatonin and valerian at different times, and they are both somewhat helpful for people who have occasional trouble sleeping. It's important to note that none of these are as effective as a prescription sleep aid, but they can help you to relax enough to drift off if you're not too stressed.

    I think I should mention that melatonin is NOT recommended for people who have clinical depression, as it may worsen your symptoms. - 8/9/2011 2:00:10 PM
  • I have used Sleep MD on occaision with success . I prefer not to though - 8/8/2011 8:37:05 PM
  • I am a horrible insomniac, to the point where I was having fainting spells during the day from being exhausted. Regular sleeping pills made me groggy and dysfunctional in the morning, melatonin gave me horrible nightmares and valerian made me nauseous. But I found this stuff called Alteril that is a mix of melatonin, valerian and tryptophan. It doesn't seem to affect me like the ingredients do individually and I sleep great now. You can get it at CVS, but it's cheaper at Walmart. - 8/8/2011 1:42:15 PM
  • SWEETARLO
    I recently read a study that said melatonin can be helpful for people with IBS, which is exacerbated by sleep disturbances. I take it sometimes, when I need just a little push into sleep. I don't think it would help with actual insomnia, though. - 8/8/2011 11:05:00 AM
  • THEWAYGIRL
    Melatonin and allergy meds give me nightmares.
    I take Menosense daily (2 morning, 2 night) and before bed take magnesium.
    It helps but I still have the nights where I wake up in the middle of the night for an hour or 2. Extra black cohosh that time of the month before bed helps so I don't have night sweats that wake me up.
    O the joys of aging, eh? :D - 8/8/2011 9:58:50 AM
  • CIRANDELLA
    I can fall asleep and stay asleep, but I have rotten nightmares every night. - 8/8/2011 8:54:29 AM

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