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10 Proven Diet Tweaks to Improve your Sleep

Many people spend decades struggling with insomnia, not knowing that their dietary habits could be contributing to their poor sleep. Establishing good sleep hygiene without understanding how diet influences sleep cannot go far.
What if you could modify a few aspects of your diet to naturally improve your sleep quality and duration?

You are not alone in suffering from insomnia. Studies have shown that 30% and 10% of US adults experience short- and long-term insomnia, respectively. Insomnia is a common struggle. But why? Isn't your brain designed to love sleep?
Over thousands of years, the brain has evolved to allow sleep using natural, internal processes. One such process is your biological clock, cycling every 24-hours to create a sleep-wake rhythm. Undisturbed, your brain can make you sleep.
However, food and drink you consume throughout the day can disturb brain's processes, causing sleep difficulties. By understanding the influence of dietary factors on your brain, you can make better dietary choices and improve your sleep.
Different aspects of your diet can destroy or improve your sleep depending on how they affect the brain.
In this article, first, we’ll see how caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and fat can mess up your brain function and sabotage your sleep. Then, we'll learn how fruits and vegetables, fish, and tryptophane-containing foods can support your brain and improve your sleep.

Dietary items that mess up your sleep


Caffeine is a stimulant. It keeps your brain awake by blocking adenosine. Adenosine is a brain chemical that accumulates as the day goes on to make you sleepy at night. But caffeine interrupts sleepiness and throw offs your sleep-wake cycle by stopping the build-up of adenosine. Therefore, it will take your brain more time to fall asleep. Caffeine also shortens the total sleep duration and worsens sleep quality. 

The negative effects of caffeine on sleep apply to all caffeinated foods and beverages, including energy drinks, chocolate, and caffeine pills.


Alcohol, contrary to caffeine, is sedating. But that doesn't mean it helps your brain sleep better. The sedating effect of alcohol might help you fall asleep quicker, but this effect doesn't last. In the second half of the night, alcohol is broken down, which messes up your sleep in several ways:

  1. Alcohol throws off your sleep-wake cycle, which results in shortened sleep duration. 

  2. It disrupts breathing by narrowing the upper airway and relaxing the throat muscle, which causes snoring. 

  3. It reduces the brain's sensitivity to low oxygen levels and its ability to wake, which leads to frequent breathing pauses. 

  4. Alcohol disrupts the natural balance of sleep chemicals and hormones in the brain, causing frequent awakenings.

The collective of these effects shortens sleep duration and worsens sleep quality.


Sugar is terrible for your sleep. Studies have shown that a diet high in sugar is associated with a lighter, non-refreshing sleep with more awakenings during the night.
Sugar can disrupt your sleep significantly in several ways:

  1. Eating too much sugar during the day means you're more prone to eating dinner late. Sleeping with a full stomach can definitely contribute to poor nighttime sleep.

  2. Consuming sugar at night energizes you to engage in more activities, keeping you awake and alert.

  3. Sugar uses lots of magnesium, which is necessary for sleeping well.

In combination, these can have a negative impact on your sleep duration and quality.

Saturated fat

Dietary items that improve your sleep

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are great for sleep. Research shows that diets high in fruits and vegetables improve sleep duration and quality. They are sleep-promoting in several ways:

  1. Fruits and vegetables reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which positively affect sleep.

  2. They are full of fiber, which improves sleep quality and duration.

  3. Fruits contain sleep-promoting hormones, like melatonin and serotonin. For example, cherries contain melatonin and serotonin, and kiwifruit possess high levels of serotonin.

So, having a diet high in fruits and vegetables should certainly help you sleep better and for longer.


Fish is also great for sleep. It improves sleep duration and quality in a few ways:

  1. Among meat, fish has the highest level of melatonin, which improves sleep.

  2. Fatty fish, such as salmon and trout, contain high levels of omega-three. Omega-three fats help release serotonin: a hormone that promotes sleep.

  3. Fish contains vitamin D, which helps the sleep-wake cycle stay rhythmic.

Combined, these positive effects can lead to better sleep quality and duration.

Tryptophan-filled food

Now that you better understand how your diet is affecting your sleep, can you see which items in your diet could be contributing to your sleep difficulties?

 Are you ready to make some practical changes to improve your sleep?

Here are 10 recommendations to improve your sleep by tweaking your diet-without taking any medication or visiting a doctor!

  1. Plan a diet with greater food varieties rich in fiber, fruit, vegetables, and fish.

  2. Stop consuming caffeinated beverages and food products 6 hours before bed-time.

  3. Switch to caffeine-free beverages in the evening, after 5 pm.

  4. Stop drinking alcohol at least 4 hours before sleep.

  5. Do not use alcohol as a sleep aid.

  6. Avoid consuming energy drinks and caffeine pills.

  7. Watch your consumption of sugary beverages and foods, especially in the evening.

  8. Eat whole-grains and food high in tryptophan, like salmon, banana, and beans.

  9. Limit your intake of fast-food and instant food products.

  10. Avoid saturated fat, using vegetable oil instead.

Why don't you try picking 3 of these 10 recommendations to implement?
Try them for 2 weeks and document your progress in a journal to see if your sleep improves. Changing behavior takes time.
Be kind to yourself and don't be afraid to start over if things don't go perfectly the first time around. Remember, practice makes progress. You are in control of your dietary choices and your sleep.
If you've struggled with insomnia for decades, it could be due to your dietary choices. Observe your caffeine and alcohol intake and your overall diet and see where there’s room for improvement.
Try out 3 of the suggestions outlined above and let me know how you get on!

Thank you for reading this article. I have created an infographic for this article. Please click here to see it.

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