Eat for your Snooze: Foods to Improve Your Sleep

As I write this, it is rainy and cold in Chicago, so sleep is definitely a thought on my mind. 

 Taking notes from Pugcovery because Bruce and June know how to get quality sleep. Instagram @Pugcovery

Taking notes from Pugcovery because Bruce and June know how to get quality sleep. Instagram @Pugcovery


As a dietitian, many people would say that I only deal with food, right? Wrong. Being a dietitian, I am able to look at the WHOLE picture. Your nutrition is not just your food. It is your home and work environment. It is your relationships. It is your occupation.  It is your sleep habits. And as busy individuals and athletes, we sometimes have sleep take a back burner in life. But being busy don't mean you should skimp on your sleep.

At the FNCE conference I attended last month, I attended a session about Circadian system, meal timing and metabolism and it was so fascinating. The speakers, Dr. Frank Scheer and Laura Andromalos discussed on our Western working culture has contributed to our health issues as a nation, mainly with decreased sleep for the general population and specifically shift workers. Dr. Scheer discussed how decrease sleep QUALITY and/or QUANTITY can cause decrease physical activity (due to not having energy to workout during the day), decrease insulin sensitivity (which can hinder your body's ability to store carbs as fuel rather than fat) and it can alter your food choices. All these components can ultimately increase your body weight, according to research. Now for someone who wants to maintain or loose weight, sleep could be a component that is holding back your goals.

So how to start achieving goals with adequate sleep and good, quality sleep? Well, there are recommendations for the amount of sleep your body needs, listed below: 

 Remember these are for the general population. Athletes, we need to be on the higher end of this range for proper recovery as well :)

Remember these are for the general population. Athletes, we need to be on the higher end of this range for proper recovery as well :)


Most of you reading this, your ideal sleep quantity would be between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. That's also important to note that those hours of sleep do NOT include naps, but are rather continuous sleep. Now, there are many different recommendations for improving sleep QUALITY, but I will just discuss how you can use your food to improve your sleep. 

With my weight loss clients, one of the most common recommendations I make for them is to incorporate a bedtime snack. There are many recent research studies that say that a protein-rich snack of about 150 calories before bed can help with improving muscle synthesis, morning metabolism and overall satiety. (Source) Those snacks or foods that would fall into that category would be Greek yogurt, toast with nut butter, or protein-muffin.  And beyond just the benefits of weight loss, snacks and foods below can assist with overall sleep quality, which will help with your daily food choices for all meals and snacks.

Foods that will help you have higher quality of sleep and improve overall nutrition:

Kiwi - this sweet, tangy fruit is packed with vitamin C, E, serotonin and folate (Vitamin B9), which helps your body regulate its tryptophan levels, maintaining a healthy level of sleep. (Source)

Whole Grains -Rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps decrease cortisol levels, which is found to keep you up at night. (Source) For athletes, a healthy dose of daily magnesium [500-800mg/day for endurance athletes] can also help energy metabolism and improve athletic performance. (Source)

Yogurt - The high amount of calcium in yogurt and its slow-burning protein, casein, allow for a double benefit of deeper sleep (calcium) and build lean muscle mass while asleep. Not only will you get a great sleep, but you will increase your metabolic rate during the daytime. (Source)

Bananas - This potassium-rich, is also high in Vitamin B6, which is part of the synthesis of melotonin. 

Kale - Another calcium-rich food, a dinner with kale will help your body produce melotonin, a natural-hormone that aids in sleep. 

Fish - this lean protein source is packed with an amino acid, tryptophan, which increases your hormone, serotonin, levels, helping you sleep deeper. 

Fiber-rich foods - A recent study found that higher intake of fiber before sleep helps individuals have a deeper, more restorative sleep. (Source)


Start adding these types of foods into your dinners and evening snacks this week and start having more restful sleep. I will be incorporating a banana with nut butter OR a plain Greek yogurt about 1 hour before bed this week. What snack or new dinner recipe will you try this week?