Eating for Better Sleep
By Jemma Besson, RD CDE
Jemma Besson is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who works for Shoppers Drug Mart®.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night1. Similar to how sleep can impact food choices we make throughout the day, the food we eat can also impact our sleep quality1-2. What are some of the key nutrients to focus on when trying to improve sleep?
B Vitamins and Magnesium: A diet that lacks B vitamins and magnesium may influence sleep quality. Both B vitamins and magnesium play an important role in the synthesis of melatonin – a hormone that is essential for restful sleep2. Foods that are high in B vitamins include legumes, whole grains, dairy, sweet potato, eggs, nuts, and leafy green vegetables3. As for magnesium, consuming just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds meets almost one hundred percent of your daily requirements4.
Tryptophan: Tryptophan is a building-block of serotonin. Serotonin is needed for the production of melatonin, which helps to promote sleepiness2. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning you need to consume it from your diet in order to meet your daily requirements5. Protein foods tend to be great sources of tryptophan, including turkey, eggs, dairy, chicken, soybeans, fish and nuts6. Consuming these foods with a small amount of carbohydrate such as sweet potato, oats, or whole grain crackers can help make tryptophan more available to the brain2,6.
Vitamin D: Similar to the above nutrients, vitamin D plays an important role in the regulation of serotonin and therefore sleep regulation7. Incorporate foods such as fatty fish several times per week to increase dietary vitamin D intake. Should you wish to add a vitamin D supplement, always discuss with your health care provider first.
While there are foods that can help promote restful sleep, what about foods that may do the opposite? A glass or two of wine before bed might help you fall asleep, but it could actually prevent you from entering the deeper stages of sleep leaving you feeling tired despite being in bed for an adequate amount of time6. There also seems to be a correlation between a higher intake of total dietary fat and shorter sleep duration8, suggesting that a high fat diet may have a negative impact on sleep.
Overall, when looking at the evidence, a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unrefined carbohydrates and contains a variety of protein sources can help improve the quality of your sleep6,7. If you are looking for help to optimize your diet to promote a more restful night’s sleep, your Online Shopper’s Drug Mart Dietitians are available for personalized nutrition advice tailored to your health needs. For more information, visit shoppersdrugmart.ca/dietitians to book an appointment today.
The information provided is for personal use, reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for a Physician’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific information on personal health matters. Please note: Dietitian services are currently only available in Ontario. Please contact your store to learn more. ®/TM 911979 Alberta Ltd. ©2020 Shoppers Drug Mart Inc
- Golen, DL et al. (2014). An Integrative Review of Sleep for Nutrition Professionals. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224209/
- Peuhkuri, K et al. (2012). Diet Promotes Sleep Duration and Quality. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224209/
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2019). What are B-Vitamins? Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/what-are-b-vitamins-and-folate
- UnlockFood. (2019). What you need to know about magnesium. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-magnesium.aspx?aliaspath=%2Fen%2FArticles%2FNutrients-(vitamins-and-minerals)%2FWhat-you-need-to-know-about-magnesium
- Freidman, M. (2018). Analysis, Nutrition, and Health Benefits of Tryptophan. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6158605/
- National Sleep Foundation. (2019). How Food and Drink Affect Your Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/taste/how-food-and-drink-affect-your-sleep
- St-Onge, MP et al. (2016). Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/7/5/938/4616727
- Dashti, HS et al. (2015). Short Sleep Duration and Dietary Intake: Epidemiologic Evidence, Mechanisms, and Health Implications. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/6/6/648/4555142