Serotonin Foods For Sleep

Just like you need food and oxygen to survive, you need sleep to stay sane, healthy and alive. Sleep is the body’s way of replenishing itself after activities of the day, busy or not, because the brain is constantly active.

When you sleep, many biological processes that restore, replenish and repair your body cells take place. Without good sleep, these critical biological processes won’t happen.

Experiencing a lack of sleep for an extended period of time has both short and long-term effects that can put both your mental and physical health at risk. The term for this is sleep deprivation.

Many people have come to understand the importance of sleep and how it is linked to diet, and are looking for ways to sleep better, one of which is to consume serotonin-rich foods before bed.

Is it good to eat serotonin foods before bed?

Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects your mood and helps to regulate sleep. It is essential for overall health and well-being, and people often associate it with a positive mood.

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is used to produce serotonin. The ‘essential’ component of this refers to the fact that it cannot be produced by the body: it has to be obtained from food. 

Apart from tryptophan-containing foods, there are also other food classes that can help boost serotonin levels in the body. When consumed in the period before rest, you will fall asleep faster, and enter a deeper sleep that is higher in quality,  which will improve function and mood upon waking. 

Serotonin foods to eat before bed

If you experience difficulty sleeping, or want to sleep better, below are some foods that can help boost serotonin levels before bed.

  1. Salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish that contains the essential amino acid tryptophan which increases serotonin levels. Additionally, it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for health. As well as supporting healthy bones and skin, these fatty acids can help keep your eyes healthy. Vitamin D, which is necessary for healthy muscles, strong bones, and teeth, is also present in salmon. Most people should be able to get enough tryptophan from eating two portions of fatty fish per week.

  1. Eggs

Eating a boiled egg before bed helps to supply tryptophan to your body and would guarantee you a lesser time trying to fall asleep. The egg yolk in particular is very rich in tryptophan, with other nutrients like tyrosine, choline, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they are rich in selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin A. A big hard-boiled egg has 6.3 grams of protein and 27% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

  1. Turkey

Turkeys remind you of thanksgiving, but not many people are aware of the high levels of tryptophan they contain. In about two servings of turkey, tryptophan is present in amounts that are near the daily requirement. You are sure to get good-quality sleep after.

  1. Meats

Turkey is not the largest source of tryptophan while being a significant one. Dark meat has 303 milligrams per pound, while light meat has 410 milligrams. Tryptophan is found in significant concentrations in chicken as well; light meat has 238 milligrams per pound and dark meat has 256 milligrams per pound.

  1. Cereal and Milk

You probably grew up with your parents telling you a warm glass of milk would help us sleep. It might interest you to know that there is also scientific evidence of the benefits of milk before bed. Milk is a natural source of the sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan.

The tryptophan is converted by the brain into the chemicals serotonin and melatonin, which aid in relaxation and regulate sleep and waking cycles. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the carbs in cereal increase the brain's availability of tryptophan. A small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal offers the most nutritional value for your money.

  1. Cherries

One of the few food sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock, are cherries, especially tart cherries. According to recent studies, people who drank tart cherry juice daily fell asleep faster, slept better, and slept longer. Additionally, it is very useful for adults who suffer from insomnia. Consider including tart cherry juice into your bedtime routine. To avoid needing to use the restroom throughout the night, try drinking a glass approximately an hour before bed.

  1. Cheese and Biscuits

Another great source of tryptophan is cheese. A yummy favourite you could make is mac and cheese which combines cheddar cheese with eggs and milk, which are also good sources of tryptophan. Tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid, is present in cheese's protein, and crackers' carbohydrates may facilitate easier sleep. Cheddar cheese has more tryptophan per gram than turkey.

  1. Pineapples

Pineapples are known to contain high levels of the amino acid, tryptophan. Adding pineapple to your diet would help to improve the production of serotonin in your brain, improve your mood, and make you feel relaxed for a good night’s sleep. Health professionals regularly suggest pineapple as a way to reduce anxiety and depression since one cup of fresh pineapple contains a substantial 10mg of tryptophan. 

You should also note that while some other plants, like tomatoes, increase in tryptophan as they ripen, it’s not the case with pineapples. They are best eaten fresh to get high levels of tryptophan.

  1. Dark green leafy vegetables

Good examples of dark leafy vegetables that help boost brain serotonin levels are spinach and kale. They contain high levels of magnesium and calcium which are associated with better quality of sleep.

Spinach and kale are also good sources of iron. Iron helps the body to make healthy red blood cells, and a lack of iron in the diet can lead to anaemia, low energy, or difficulty breathing. Furthermore, spinach is a strong provider of calcium, which supports the brain's ability to convert tryptophan into melatonin. Consider adding a leafy green vegetable to your dinner to reduce the time you spend trying to fall asleep.

  1. Nuts

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are often considered to be good food for sleep. Despite variations in amounts, nuts contain melatonin as well as magnesium and zinc, which are essential for a variety of bodily functions. 

A combination of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc was proven to improve sleep in older persons with insomnia in a clinical trial using supplements.

  1. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is high in tryptophan due to its high protein content. Greek yogurt is a bedtime favorite of some personal trainers.

  1. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is an age-long remedy to promote better sleep. It also helps calm the mind and body, as it is rich in an antioxidant called apigenin. Elderly people often suffer from sleep disorders and taking chamomile tea before bed would promote better sleep and improve sleep quality.

  1. Tofu

Tofu is a soy product and is a rich source of tryptophan. You can substitute tofu for pretty much any protein, in pretty much any recipe, making it an excellent source of tryptophan for vegetarians and vegans.

  1. Prebiotics and probiotics

A healthy gut is vital for the production of serotonin. To promote a healthy gut, include prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods in your diet. You should also be deliberately reducing or controlling your intake of foods that can negatively alter your gut flora. Examples are refined sugars, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners.


Incorporating one or more of the foods listed above into your diet can have a significant impact on your sleep quality. If you are continually having difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, you should see a doctor.


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Godswill Samson

BSc, Pharmacology, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Godswill is a budding health writer with a passion for health and wellness. She combines this with her writing skill to educate the public on ways to live fuller and healthier lives. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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