Do you often feel tired or lack energy during the day? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep each night. This can lead to a number of health issues including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get more rest. Research has found that certain foods and beverages may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Try incorporating some of these items in your weekly meal plans. Keep in mind it may take several weeks to start noticing benefits.

The importance of B6

B6 aids in the metabolism of protein along with an array of other metabolic processes. This water soluble vitamin also plays a role in serotonin production. This is important because serotonin is eventually converted into melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our wake and sleep cycles. Focus on consuming more B6 rich foods weekly and you may be on your way to restoring your energy levels.

  • Beans (chickpeas, etc)
  • Avocados
  • Tuna
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Chicken Breast
  • Squash (all types)
  • Banana
  • Nuts
  • Whole Potatoes
  • Seeds
  • Ground Beef
  • Salmon

Relax with magnesium

According to the US Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, the standard American diet doesn’t include enough magnesium, which is required in more than 300 metabolic processes. It also plays a role in nerve function, muscle contractions and heart rhythm. Additionally, the relaxing effects of magnesium may aid in improving sleep quality.

  • Nuts (almonds)
  • Avocados
  • Leafy Greens (spinach)
  • Whole Potatoes
  • Black Beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Natural Peanut Butter
  • Banana
  • Sprouted Grain Breads
  • Fish & Seafood
  • 100% Whole Grain Products
  • Chicken Breast

Focus on calcium

Calcium is often promoted for its roles in bone health and muscle contractions. However, calcium also aids in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid in foods that is eventually converted into melatonin in the brain. Adequate calcium also appears to be important for helping us reach rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep.

  • Yogurt
  • Sardines
  • Kefir (drinkable yogurt)
  • Milk
  • String Cheese
  • Nut Milk (almond, etc.)
  • Calcium-Fortified Juices
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy Greens (kale, etc.)
  • White Beans

Soak up the vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is correlated with improved sleep. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with more sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness. Strive to get more vitamin D rich foods weekly. Boost your body’s internal vitamin D production by scheduling a 10-15 minute walk outside during your lunch or afternoon breaks. The sunlight and fresh air may also improve your energy levels.

  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Yogurt
  • Tuna
  • Kefir
  • Salmon
  • Pasture-Raised Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified Orange Juice
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Shrimp

Drink up

Certain teas and warm beverages may have a calming effect on the body. Chamomile and valerian teas are popular beverages that appear to act as a mild sedative. Milk or Kefir yogurt is another great pre-bed drink thanks to tryptophan, calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients all appear to play a role in promoting sleep.

  • Warm Milk
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Almond Milk
  • Peppermint Tea
  • Valerian Tea
  • Passion Fruit Tea

Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate

Tart cherries are a popular food in the health and fitness industry for good reason – they are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. One of the phytochemicals – anthocyanin – appears to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. In addition, tart cherries are a natural source melatonin. A small pilot study revealed positive results on reducing insomnia in older adults.

Take 2-4 tablespoons of tart cherry juice concentrate daily. Dosing in the morning and roughly 1-2 hours before bed may promote the most benefit. To incorporate tart cherry juice concentrate in your diet, try:

  • Adding into smoothies
  • Mixing into yogurt, cottage cheese or Kefir (drinkable yogurt)
  • Infusing into water or tea
  • Flavoring milk or soy milk
  • Making into a homemade salad dressing or meat marinade


Putting it all together

Here are a few sample meals and snacks that may help enhance sleep:


Sample Meal

2 slices sprouted grain toast

1-2 Tbsp almond butter

1 cup berries or tart cherries

Glass of milk or Kefir

1 cup frozen cherries



Sample Meal

1 cup rice

3/4 cup black beans

1/2 avocado

Salsa – topping for rice and beans


Sample Meal

3-4 oz grilled fish or chicken

1-2 cups chickpea pasta with sauce

Large salad with tart cherry dressing

1 cup fresh fruit



Sample Snack

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup tart cherries

2-3 Tbsp granola



Sample Snack

1-2 popcorn cakes or rice cakes

1-2 Tbsp peanut butter

1 cup frozen grapes



Sample Snack

3-4 cups popped popcorn

20-30 pistachios or 1/4 cup nuts




Lee Hyrkas is a registered dietitian and performance nutrition specialist at Bellin Health. Lee’s goal is to assist every athlete and active individual in maximizing their performance and health. To schedule a one on one assessment, please contact Lee at or (920) 430-4728.