What to eat to sleep well


Situations of prolonged stressnot being able to relax the mind, shift work, jet lag syndrome can cause difficulty falling asleep and to stay asleep: common elements of insomnia. After sleeping badly or waking up early, we have difficulty carrying out normal daily activities. We realize how important it is to sleep well only when we can no longer do so.

Sleep disorders in quarantine

In this historical moment, the situation is even more delicate. The Covid pandemic together with the health and economic emergency, it also leads us to face apsychological emergency. The quarantine to which we are subjected, for the containment of the contagion, has reduced our social life, we work in smart working, always closed at home, and has inevitably also changed the sleep-wake rhythms. Social isolation, fear of contagion are highly stressful factors for most of us and insomnia it is one of the probable consequences of this hitherto unexperienced period.

What to eat to sleep well?

In this context nutrition takes on a role of primary importance, it becomes an indispensable and necessary tool because some foods can lower nervous reactivity and promote sleep induction. How can we use nutrition as a tool to fall asleep earlier and sleep better?

To know more:
How to sleep well

Nutritional advice

Some can be used food strategy to promote the quality and quantity of sleep. Numerous studies have highlighted that quality rest can be obtained thanks to an adequate combination of specific foods.

The 2 magical ingredients that cannot be missing from the table to combat stress and insomnia are tryptophan and the melatonin. We have to fill up on it in the evening meal.

The cenawhich should be consumed by 8pm, must be balanced in macronutrients:

  • Carbohydrates: capable of influencing the plasma concentration of tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin and a sleep-inducing agent.
  • Grassi: above all Omega 3, essential fatty acids which favor the increase in free tryptophan and therefore its uptake acts on the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin.
  • Proteins: pay attention to how many and which ones, because a meal rich in this nutrient and with a certain amino acid content could affect your sleep. Meat, for example, is rich in various amino acids (isoleucine, leucine, tyrosine, valine, methionine, phenylalanine) which compete with tryptophan and could hinder its absorption. So an alternative to dinner can be represented by fish and eggs.

The evening meal must be light but not excessively frugal to avoid hunger pangs at bedtime or during the night.

The preferred cooking methods are al steamai ferriat the grillal baked, baked, simple and without added fat so that dinner is light and easy to digest.

During the evening meal we must also fill up on muscle-relaxing minerals. Two micronutrients essential to ensuring quality sleep are the magnesium (contained in pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, fish, spinach and broad-leafed vegetables, artichokes, dates, brown rice, oats) and potassium excellent sources of which are: bananas, peaches, tomatoes, green beans, courgettes, salmon and chicken.

Also the soccer, selenium e manganese play an important role in sleep regulatory mechanisms. Dinner should also be the time to stock up B vitaminsbecause it is thanks to their action that tryptophan can effectively transform into serotonin, facilitating the regular sleep/wake rhythm.

What is the role of melatonin in sleep disorders?

To have a good sleep and stay in a good mood we need it melatonin, the hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm, i.e. the body's sleep-wake cycle. The body is able to produce it (in the early evening for most people) thanks to a small gland present in the brain (pineal gland or epiphysis). Melatonin peaks at night and very low values ​​during the day. Or melatonin, we can get that filling up on tryptophan, amino acid which, once ingested, promotes the synthesis of the neurotransmitter of well-being and good mood: la serotonin, precursor of melatonin. In nature there are also foods of plant origin that are rich in melatonin and others that are able to stimulate its endogenous production because they are rich in tryptophan.

What foods contain melatonin?

Some fruits and cereals such as bananas, grapes, rice, wheat, barley, oats (also rich in calcium and magnesium, mineral salts), extra virgin olive oil are rich in melatonin. These foods should be taken in the evening before going to bed to promote relaxation and normal sleep function.

Foods rich in tryptophan

As we have already said, foods containing it cannot be missing from our diet tryptophan.

In the following table the favorable food sources for the content of this amino acid, expressed as the ratio between the tryptophan content (g) and the protein content (g) per 100g of edible product.

Nutrition: what to avoid to avoid suffering from insomnia?

It is important to choose carefully the foods to bring to the table for dinner. There are substances which in particularly sensitive subjects can induce insomnia problems due to their stimulating or depressing action on the CNS.

  1. Drinks or foods containing nerve stimulants: coffee, tea, cola-type drinks, ginseng drinks, energy drinks and chocolate which can suppress the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin.
  2. Alcohol and spirits: the initial feeling of drowsiness is followed by divided sleep due to the workload to which the liver is subjected to metabolize alcohol.
  3. Foods rich in sodium: Canned, oily, pickled and smoked foods can hinder sleep because sodium has a hypertensive effect.
  4. Foods rich in monosodium glutamate: stock cubes, but also cured meats and canned meats and vegetables, ready-made and pre-packaged foods because being exciting can compromise the quality of sleep.
  5. Very acidic foods and spices: tomato, citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, lemons, grapefruits, mandarins, etc.), garlic, onion, mint which can cause gastro-esophageal reflux.
  6. Foods rich in tyramine: matured or fermented cheeses (such as cheddar, gorgonzola, roquefort, brie, pecorino, gruyere), smoked food, wine, aubergines, sauerkraut, sausages and sausages, not very fresh or preserved fish (herring, tuna, caviar) because they have a hypertensive effect and can inhibit sleep; stimulate the secretion of adrenaline, norepinephrine and dopamine.
  7. Foods with diuretic effect : watermelon, melon, pineapple to avoid awakenings due to nocturia.
  8. Foods too rich in fats and proteins: they slow down digestion and inhibit the encephalic uptake of tryptophan.


We have seen how nutrition can contribute directly or indirectly to insomnia as there is a direct correlation between some foods, their preparation and the times of falling asleep and the average duration of sleep. For this reason we must use foods in a functional way, implementing some nutritional strategies to guarantee our body adequate and restorative sleep, to avoid negative repercussions on our health. It is also good to follow other simple rules of behavior just before going to sleep avoid doing physical activity, smoking and using electronic devices (tablets, PCs, mobile phones).


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