It is a common malady to all of us…lying wide-awake in bed, lamenting the workout you did after work, the 10:00am cup of coffee you had this morning, or possibly it’s just the stress over that looming deadline.

Anyone who has suffered from an unrefreshing or elusive sleep, knows a refreshing, good nights rest can be derailed by the smallest thing.  How-ever, the good news is “small” things can also improve your quality sleep potential, and one of those “small” things is the proper diet!

Foods That Contain Tryptophan, the Sleep-Inducing Amino Acid

It is almost certain that even the most energetic of us have experienced that “down for the count coma feeling”, that comes after we have stuffed ourselves with a Thanksgiving feast.  The amino acid called tryptophan, which is found in turkey, eggs, dairy products, fish and many other meats, is the primary cause of this holiday phenomenon.

Tryptophan is the essential amino acid that is used in the production of melatonin and serotonin, which are essential chemicals involved in our sleep and sleep-wake cycles.  Our bodies can’t produce this essential amino acid, so we need to get it from the foods we eat. The stage can more readily be set for a good night’s sleep, by making sure that our diets contain sufficient levels of tryptophan.

These are some of the foods that contain high levels of tryptophan:


  • Lobster
  • Elk
  • Honey
  • Shrimp
  • Cheese
  • Beans Oats
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Tuna Salmon
  • Chicken

The Role of Magnesium and Calcium in Sleep

That calcium and magnesium are vital nutrients which our bodies must have for the production of healthy bones is well known, however, many other bodily functions, such as sleep are dependent on them as well! 


Much like tryptophan, magnesium needs to be acquired through our diets, and as one of the seven essential macrominerals, our body requires large quantities to be healthy.

A deep, restorative sleep, as well as our moods, stress, and metabolic health, are all regulated by the proper body level of magnesium.  Insomnia and frequent nighttime awakenings are linked directly to a deficiency of this mineral.


Calcium plays a direct role in how tryptophan is used by the brain.  As we established above, tryptophan is essential for the body’s production of serotonin, the sleep/wake regulating chemical, and of melatonin, the hormone responsible for inducing sleep.  According to research, poor or insufficient REM sleep, and other sleep disturbances are linked to the deficiency of calcium.

The following foods are high in magnesium and calcium :

  • Bananas
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate
  • Tofu
  • Green leafy vegetables (mustard greens, spinach, kale)
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Almonds

Other Foods and Nutrients That are Sleep-Supporting

There are numerous other foods that support healthy sleep, in addition to foods rich in magnesium, calcium, and tryptophan:

  • Lactucarium, a nutrient with sedative properties, for instance, can be found in lettuce.
  • High glycemic index foods, such as rice, corn chips, pretzels, and grains, if you prefer such over greens, help tryptophan enter the brain.
  • Vitamin B6, which plays a key roll in inducing sleep, can be found in other foods, such as pistachio nuts, salmon, halibut, and tuna.
  • Passion fruit and chamomile are great alternatives, if your would prefer sipping a cup of hot tea before bedtime. Glycine, which is known as a mild sedative, and for its’ relaxing qualities, is known to be present in increasing quantities in chamomile tea. Harman alkaloids act on the nervous system, and helps promote tiredness, and is found in passion fruit tea.

Please give us a call, if you continue to suffer sleep deprivation despite all your efforts, including diet changes.  You may need to be diagnosed by a qualified professional due to experiencing more severe sleep problems.

Effective treatment may be required in order to prevent other significant health issues, that are related, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and of course, to restore quality sleep





Pin It on Pinterest