Fruits / Garden of Eatin' / Vegetables

10 Sleep-Promoting Fruits and Vegetables That Help You “Spring Forward” Easier

Homegrown pineapple

I have a love/hate for Daylight Saving Time.

On the one hand, I’m thrilled that the days are about to get longer and I can get a little more work done in the garden, finish my bike rides while it’s still light out, and not feel like it’s time for bed when it’s only 8 pm.

On the other hand, “losing” that hour of sleep makes me feel off kilter for weeks as I struggle to nip my late-night habits in the bud.

Research has shown that our circadian rhythms never fully adjust to Daylight Saving Time, and the transition is especially difficult for night owls. (Not to stray off topic, but I am firmly in the “let’s abolish DST once and for all” camp. Or maybe I should just move to Arizona.)

This annual disruption of sleep is tied to how our bodies produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates when we feel sleepy and when we feel awake.

The more light we are exposed to, the less melatonin we make. Once darkness sets in, we ramp up production of melatonin to start getting our brains ready for bed. Our internal clocks are controlled by the sun, but are designed to adjust to seasonal changes gradually.

When sunrises and sunsets suddenly shift by an hour overnight — and seemingly out of nowhere — our clocks are sent for a loop.

Short of reading something reeeaaaally boring before bed (my husband actually keeps the full text of the Constitution on his nightstand, ha), is there anything you can do to drift to sleep easier in the coming week?

Yes — and you probably have them in your garden or kitchen already.

Certain foods may help you sleep because they contain compounds that naturally make you sleepier.

Some fruits and vegetables contain small amounts of melatonin (as well as other sleep-promoting chemicals, like tryptophan and magnesium) that help you settle down and fall asleep faster.

They’re not a cure-all for insomnia, but incorporating a few of them into your evening meals could make the time change a little less painful.

10 fruits and vegetables that help you sleep better at night

1. Cherries

Cherries (especially sour cherries like the Montmorency variety) are one of the only (and highest) natural food sources of melatonin.

Studies have shown a boost in circulating melatonin after consumption of cherries, though sweet cherries have half the melatonin content as sour cherries.

When the fruits are not in season, try a glass of cherry juice instead. (Dried cherries, on the other hand, have been found to contain no melatonin.)

2. Bananas

Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6, which raises serotonin levels (the relaxing neurotransmitters that affect your quality of sleep), as well as potassium and magnesium, which help relax overstressed muscles. (If you’re unable to sleep because of restless leg syndrome, a magnesium deficiency is often the cause.)

The fruits also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin and melatonin.

Apple bananas

3. Pineapples

With even more melatonin-boosting benefits than bananas, pineapples are a sweet choice for easing insomnia or jet lag.

A study that measured the amount of aMT6-s in the body (a marker of circulating melatonin) found an increase of 266 percent in melatonin after test subjects ate pineapples (compared to a 180 percent increase with bananas and a 47 percent increase with oranges).

On top of that, pineapples aid in digestion if tummy troubles cause you to toss and turn at night.

4. Oranges

Oranges can increase the melatonin in your body by approximately 47 percent, but that’s not the only reason you should eat them.

They’re also a great source of B vitamins, which help with sleep in a number of ways: reducing anxiety and depression, improving the regularity of the sleep/wake cycle, and aiding in the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (the chief sleep-promoting neurotransmitter in the brain).

Valencia oranges

5. Avocados

Avocados are high in magnesium, which is sometimes referred to as the sleep mineral.

When you’re short on this essential mineral, you may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet helps promote slow wave, or deep sleep, as magnesium is a natural relaxant that helps deactivate adrenaline. As a result, you wake up feeling more refreshed from a good night’s sleep.

6. Kale

At the risk of sounding trite, kale is actually really good for you — and good for your sleep.

That’s because kale is loaded with calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin.

The same goes for all the dark leafy greens, especially collards, spinach, and broccoli. (If you grow broccoli at home, don’t let the leaves go to waste!)

Russian kale

7. Lettuce

If you needed a good reason to choose salad over soup with your dinner: lettuce contains lactucarium, a milky secretion that has sedative properties and is commonly referred to as lettuce opium.

It’s found in the stems of several lettuce species in varying amounts, including garden lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and especially wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa).

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in the phytonutrient lycopene, which helps you stay asleep.

Your body can absorb lycopene more easily if it’s heated in a little fat, so simmer a pot of tomatoes on the stove with a drizzle of oil and a handful of basil.

Plum tomatoes

9. Holy basil

Speaking of basil, one medicinal variety of the herb—holy basil, also known as tulsi—has long used as a holistic remedy for sleep troubles. This isn’t the sweet basil you sprinkle over your pasta or the cinnamon basil used to spice up Vietnamese meals.

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is known to calm the mind, lower cortisol levels, and treat depression. It’s a sacred plant in Ayurvedic medicine but is also a common herb in Thai cuisine, where it’s known as Thai holy basil or kaphrao.

So how can you get more of it in your diet? Aside from adding it to Thai recipes (where the spicy, peppery, clove-like taste enhances all those rich flavors), holy basil leaves can be dried and used in tea. Steep the leaves in hot water and drink a cup before bed to help you fall asleep.

10. Carrots

Carrots are packed with alpha-carotene, which is closely associated with better sleep.

In fact, they’re the most potent source of the powerful carotenoid, followed by pumpkin.

Consuming carrots in their various forms (raw, cooked, or juiced) may lead to an easier time falling asleep when counting sheep is no longer an option.

Colander full of orange, yellow, and white carrots

11. Soybeans (edamame)

Don’t pass up the edamame next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant — in their natural state, soybeans are an excellent source of calcium and have a high concentration of tryptophan.

Emerging studies have also found that soy isoflavones (estrogen-like compounds in the plant) may contribute to longer sleep duration (at least seven to eight hours a night) and better quality of sleep.

12. Kiwi

Recent research on kiwifruit has found that this small, oval fruit can improve sleep. In that study, people who ate two kiwis an hour before bedtime fell asleep faster, slept longer, and had better quality sleep.

While the reasons are still unclear, it’s believed kiwi contributes to sleep with its high serotonin levels, ability to address folate deficiencies, and several antioxidant properties.

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on March 9, 2017.

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

13 Comments

  • Angie
    March 19, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing these sleep-inducing foods! I have two little picky eaters at home who only eat their fruits and vegetables if there is an immediate reason to, like falling asleep 🙂 We’ll try cherries and bananas to start.

    Reply
  • Matthew
    June 17, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    You should scratch number 8, tomatoes should not be eaten before bed!

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      June 30, 2020 at 6:58 am

      I’ve never heard that before. Why? As far as I know, it’s perfectly fine to eat tomatoes at night, as in dinner.

      Reply
      • Tara Wallace
        August 20, 2020 at 8:35 pm

        Hi Linda, I think this is because tomatoes are a nightshade… I suffer with chronic insomnia and have recently noticed that every time I eat tomatoes at dinner I have a horrific night. (Especially tinned). If you don’t have any dietary problems then tomatoes are probable great for sleep but I know they can be an issue for many suffering from digestive problems. Still on the long road of discovering what works for me.

        Reply
        • Linda from Garden Betty
          September 2, 2020 at 8:15 am

          Oh, very interesting!

          Reply
  • Philip from Soil Seed Garden
    March 10, 2020 at 1:05 am

    My mom uses the TV to get her to sleep nightly. Not sure how she does it with the volume on but it seems to work for her. Anyways, quick question, should you eat the fruits or veggies right before or near bedtime or is there an accumulation effect that can happen such that eating within in the day does add up to later that night?

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      March 25, 2020 at 11:27 pm

      I don’t know if there’s a cumulative effect, but it’s best to eat these close to bedtime when you’re ready to start winding down. (The same way one would have warm milk or chamomile tea before bed.)

      Reply
  • Silly Little Sheep
    March 16, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    My husband reads me articles from woodworking magazines. Sometimes it works 🙂

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      March 22, 2017 at 5:13 am

      LOL! That might have the opposite effect on me. I’m a sucker for DIY!

      Reply
  • Steph Piontkowski
    March 12, 2017 at 5:28 am

    Definitely hate DST especially with a toddler. It’s so rough! I was curious, do frozen cherries still contain melatonin?

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      March 22, 2017 at 6:57 am

      Yes, I believe so!

      Reply
  • Misti
    March 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Love the redesign!

    I’m with you on DST. I’m struggling with pushing back toddler bedtime next week so we can play longer or keep it normal and work outside after. Pros and cons for both. I’m just ready for some longer evenings!

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      March 11, 2017 at 5:19 am

      Thanks Misti! And gah – I hadn’t even thought about toddler sleep. Just another fun challenge on top of teething, developmental milestones, and growth spurts. 😛

      Reply

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