Foods that help baby sleep through the night

Best Foods To Promote Better Baby and Toddler Sleep |

Home / Sleep Quick Tips / Quick Tip: Best Foods To Promote Better Baby and Toddler Sleep

by Emily DeJeu in Sleep Quick Tips —

We talk a lot here at The Baby Sleep Site® about how to promote better sleep for your baby. From sleep training for better nighttime sleep to nap coaching for better naps, we have so many tips to offer for getting your baby to sleep.

But here’s a tip that may surprise you: did you know that the food you offer your baby can have a direct impact on his sleep? It’s true! Read on for details.

Sleep-Promoting Foods To Feed Your Baby or Toddler

You probably know that foods containing caffeine and sugar are stimulating; for that reason, you definitely want to avoid feeding those kinds of foods to your child as a general rule, and certainly before naptime or bedtime. However, there are other types of foods that actually have a sedating effect on the brain. They produce chemicals that promote sleepiness and relaxation. These foods that help sleep contain a substance called tryptophan.

What is tryptophan? Glad you asked! Tryptophan is an amino acid that our bodies use to synthesize proteins. Tryptophan also produces a brain chemical called serotonin from which melatonin (which is so essential for sleep that it’s named the ‘sleep hormone’) is manufactured.

Foods that contain high levels of tryptophan include the following:

  • Dairy products (Cheddar, gruyere, and Swiss cheeses have particularly high amounts of tryptophan)
  • Nuts
  • Tofu and soy products
  • Wheat and oats
  • Bananas
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Poultry (especially turkey)

But here’s the thing: in order for the tryptophan to help your child feel sleepy, your kiddo needs to eat tryptophan-containing foods alongside foods that contain healthy, complex carbohydrate foods. Why? Because carbohydrates cause the release of insulin, which helps tryptophan reach the brain and cause sleepiness.

Good examples of meals that provide the proper combination of complex carbs and tryptophan include:

  • Turkey with sautéed greens
  • Whole-wheat pasta with some cheddar cheese grated on top
  • An egg sandwich on whole wheat bread, topped with Swiss cheese
  • Tofu with stir-fried vegetables
  • Tuna* with brown rice

*Please talk to your doctor about appropriate amount due to mercury levels

You don’t need to whip up an entire meal, however, in order to feed your child some sleep-promoting food. Great sleep-inducing snacks could include:

  • Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
  • Whole-grain cereal with milk
  • Low-sugar oatmeal cookie with milk
  • Squares of cheese on whole-wheat crackers

Please Note: Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about how to introduce solids to your baby or toddler, since some food leads to food allergies, which can actually cause sleep to WORSEN (and who wants that?!).

Of course, sleep-inducing foods like these won’t necessarily solve all your sleep problems! If persistent nighttime waking and short (or non-existent) naps are problems in your home, you may need to troubleshoot other causes of sleep problems. No amount of sleep-inducing food will help solve persistent night-waking and early-nap waking. But offering your child sleep-promoting foods is one great way among many to help ensure that you have a peaceful sleeper in your home!

What sleep-promoting foods work well for your child? Any favorite bedtime or pre-nap snacks to recommend? Scroll down to ask questions, to share tips and suggestions, and to hear from other parents just like you!

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Need Baby and Toddler Sleep Help? We Have the Resources You Need!

For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.

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Foods to Encourage Your Baby to Sleep Better

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Could choosing the right food be the key to more precious sleep time for little ones and you?

If your baby won’t sleep after eating, or you’re hoping to feed baby to sleep through the night, here are our top tips for the best baby food to give baby before bed to encourage them to sleep better.

Bedtime foods when weaning

If your baby is starting to wean off milk and you’re introducing solid foods (from around six months onwards), you’re probably already trying a variety of different foods, from purees to porridge and rice, finger foods and fruit. The most important thing is to keep food healthy, nutritious and easy for baby to digest.

Foods that can help your baby sleep through the night

So, what foods will aid sleep for your little one and which are the best baby foods to feed before bed? Try these easy-to-digest foods to help your little one sleep through the night:

  • Porridge: This wholesome favourite is a healthy choice for babies and adults and it’s light and easy to digest, provided you can get your little one to eat it rather than wear it.
  • Rice: Brown rice is very nutritious for babies and white rice is easy to digest and light on the stomach. Rice pudding is a popular dessert that could help your little one sleep.
  • Whole grain cereal with milk: Combining diary and cereal will help encourage your baby to naturally produce sleepy hormones.
  • Turkey and chicken: Provided you’re not feeding baby a vegetarian diet, adding these meats shredded or in soups can be a good way of adding protein to baby’s diet. If your little one is confident enough to feed themselves, then let them help themselves to small strips.

Helping baby to sleep well

There are many reasons why your baby may struggle to sleep or wake frequently throughout the night, so it’s always important to check that they are safe and comfortable. Visit our sleep section for more help and support with baby sleep.

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How does nutrition affect sleep? – 4fresh blog

We spend almost a third of our lives in a state of sleep. And sleep plays a vital role in our body. Our body lives in accordance with the biological clock that regulates metabolic processes, the state of the immune system, and the release of hormones.

With insufficient sleep, all these processes are shifted in one direction or another, and a failure begins. Also, among other things, it affects the reduction or increase in weight. If the daily routine is violated, fatigue appears, energy resources are depleted, and the body begins to require more carbohydrates, as a result, overeating occurs. nine0005

Instead of sitting up late on social media, you might as well have had a good night's sleep. But this does not mean that you need to sleep constantly. Do not forget that too much sleep is harmful. Everyone knows - a sleepy day off?

An important factor in insomnia and other sleep disorders is our diet. That's the right diet! You should not starve yourself before going to bed and try to fall asleep with a rumbling stomach, in the desire to achieve an ideal figure. Let's figure out how and what to eat in order to sleep soundly and wake up in the morning with a cheerful mood. nine0005

Where is that dream born?

A little theory first!

Sleep occurs in the pineal gland, where the amino acid melatonin, the sleep hormone, is produced during metabolism. Melatonin levels are directly related to the amino acid tryptophan. When enough tryptophan is accumulated in the brain, a person falls asleep easily and quickly.

During the day, light acts on the retina of the eye, and tryptophan is used to form the hormone of joy - serotonin. Night falls and the light level decreases, the level of serotonin also decreases, inhibition in the brain begins to predominate and drowsiness occurs. At this point, melatonin is synthesized from tryptophan. Serotonin is also converted to melatonin at night. nine0005

Now it is clear that the fundamental amino acid tryptophan is the foundation of sound sleep and good mood!

Therefore, it is necessary to consume more foods containing tryptophan. And not at bedtime, but during the day, at any of the meals.

Tryptophan products

The main sources of tryptophan are dairy and meat products, legumes and grains, nuts. Especially rich in amino acids are hard cheeses, cottage cheese, cocoa, soy, almonds, hazelnuts, oatmeal and whole grain bread. nine0005

  • For children warm milk with honey is the perfect sleep aid, especially after a busy and hard day. In addition, it contains calcium, which helps the brain absorb tryptophan.
  • For adults - turkey meat, almonds and pine nuts, whole grain bread. In the evening, it is good to eat a sandwich of turkey and whole grain bread. But it is in the evening, and not before bedtime! A hearty meal before bedtime is perceived by the brain as a signal for a new cycle of activity. nine0030




Products with melatonin

People suffering from insomnia need to pay attention to products that directly contain the hormone melatonin itself and add them to the diet, namely for dinner.

You should not gobble them up just before bedtime, as a panacea for insomnia. Good sleep products are not fast-acting sleeping pills, it takes the body several hours to digest and absorb nutrients, convert them into chemical compounds. nine0005

The main sources of melatonin are rice, bananas, cherries, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and corn.

  • Bananas - "sleeping pills in the peel", stimulates the production of melatonin, and contains potassium and magnesium, which help stabilize mood and relax muscles.
  • Cherries and sweet cherries - natural sources of melatonin. If you want to sleep on a plane or train, always take a handful of cherries or cherries with you.

It is necessary to take into account the fact that the hormone melatonin, which enters our body with food, is partially destroyed by the enzymes of gastric juice. Therefore, it is absorbed only in favorable conditions.




Sleep vitamins

In addition to tryptophan and melatonin, the presence of other vitamins and micronutrients is very important for good sleep. nine0005

  • Magnesium. The main sources are fresh green vegetables and fruits, but in such plant foods there is a substance called phytin, which makes it difficult for magnesium to be absorbed. For this reason, it is better to use nuts and cereals to enrich the internal reserves of magnesium. It is recommended to consume these foods before bed and during snacks throughout the day.
  • B vitamins. The most important of them are B1, B2, B5, B6 and B12. The most important vitamins for the functioning of the nervous system and, accordingly, a good, restful sleep. Vitamins B1 and B2 are found in plant foods: bran, bread, cereals, potatoes, spinach, soy, broccoli. Vitamins B6 and B12 are present in animal products: meat, milk, yolks. nine0030
  • Vitamin D is also essential for quality sleep. With a lack of this vitamin, sleep worsens. According to statistics, people suffering from increased body weight or insomnia have a lack of this particular vitamin. In order for it to be effectively produced, it is necessary to have vegetable oils and fish in the diet and frequent exposure to the sun. The latter is not always possible, therefore, it is recommended to take vitamin D and fish oil (omega-3) in the form of additional vitamins and dietary supplements. nine0030

It is especially important to pay attention to vitamins and microelements for vegetarians and people on strict diets. In this case, it is necessary to take additional sources - vitamin-mineral complexes.




Products not for sleep

  • Alcohol significantly reduces the quality of sleep. A person turns off, but it can hardly be called a good full sleep. The body cleanses itself all night of toxins and alcohol breakdown products. nine0030
  • Caffeinated products which include tea, coffee and various energy drinks. Firstly, it is a strong stimulant that increases blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine excites the nervous system, so taking it less than a few hours before bedtime can cause insomnia or reduce sleep quality. Secondly, caffeine is a fairly strong diuretic that removes water from the body. In turn, the lack of fluid, which plays a major role in the metabolism in the body, including the transmission of nerve impulses, affects sleep in the most detrimental way. nine0030
  • In addition to caffeine, there is also a range of stimulant products, which include many spices such as hot peppers or ginger. They have the same effect as tea or coffee. This is especially important for those who are losing weight with a diet with green coffee and ginger, so you should not use these drinks in the evening, but prefer herbal tea. For example, chamomile tea is a safe and beneficial sleep aid that contains the natural amino acid theanine. It keeps the brain calm and helps you fall asleep faster. Also an excellent drink is chicory, which calms the nervous system tired during the day. nine0030




  • Salt. Its use usually exceeds the norm by 3 times. You can eat no more than 5 grams of salt per day. Do not forget that additionally salt is added to all products. And the amount of 5 grams refers to the entire diet. Salt retains water in the body and as a result, swelling and electrolyte imbalance. This is where insomnia and sleep disturbances in the form of nightmares come from. nine0030
  • No fast carbohydrates before bedtime, they give an impetus to wakefulness and energize.

Summing up

  1. Eating healthy
  2. Give preference to food that is rich in tryptophan (turkey, eggs, and for children - milk). Products that stimulate the nervous system (chocolate, confectionery) are recommended to be consumed before 15 pm. Avoid overeating - this creates a feeling of heaviness, causes abdominal discomfort, increased gas production and ultimately interferes with sleep. nine0005

  3. Don't forget vitamins
  4. Some of them increase the production of melatonin. For example, vitamins B3 and B6, magnesium are supplied in insufficient quantities, especially in old age. Those who take these vitamins in tablet form should be aware that vitamin B6 should be taken in the morning, as it initially excites and can interrupt sleep. Vitamin B3 can be taken in the evening along with calcium and magnesium, which at this time of day help increase melatonin production. nine0005

  5. Protect your melatonin and pineal gland
  6. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and fast food - each of them is able to undermine the normal production of the hormone. Over time, this gland undergoes a so-called process of calcification, to prevent this, it is necessary to give preference to a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.

Sleep and nutrition are closely related. To sleep well, you do not need to immediately resort to medicinal sedatives. And you don’t even need a special strict diet, you just need to provide yourself with a full, healthy, varied diet on an ongoing basis! nine0003

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why it is harmful to eat before bedtime, what not to eat before bedtime

Insomnia is a state of overexcitation of the central nervous system caused by factors of different etiologies. In medical practice, this condition is also called insomnia. It cannot be fully attributed only to pathological diseases. Sleep disorders affect perfectly healthy people. The term insomnia can be equated with such conditions as: a long period of falling asleep, early awakening, superficial sleep, and others. nine0162

As you know, good sleep is an excellent tool in the fight against fatigue, bad mood and laziness. If you manage to rest during the night, the next day you can feel reborn. Interestingly, the female body needs at least 7 hours for proper rest and recovery, while the male body needs a little less. Lack of sleep leads to overeating, problems with growth in adolescents, excess weight, general decrease in immunity, etc.

Good sleep depends on the work of night hormones. The main sleep hormone is melatonin, its important functions are: regulation of the circadian rhythm, as well as antioxidant activity, which is necessary for maintaining health and youth. To produce the required amount of melatonin, it is important to observe certain conditions: darkness, sleep time (optimally from 22–23 pm to 5–6 am) and the presence of the required amount of its precursors, because melatonin is formed from serotonin, which, in turn, from tryptophan. It is also important to understand that 95% of the total endogenous hormone of joy is formed in the intestines. That is, the food that a person eats before rest has a great influence on sleep.

This article provides a list of recommendations and foods that will help you figure out what to eat before bed and what to avoid.

The best meal before bed

Foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan

If the last meal includes foods rich in this amino acid, the quality of sleep will improve. Tryptophan is rich in vegetable proteins, especially legumes, in addition, these are: pumpkin seeds, walnuts, soybeans. They can be combined with other foods, preferably with carbohydrates, which will help to digest faster: with pasta, whole grain bread, crackers, eggs, and dairy products. The record holder for the content of tryptophan in meat is venison. You will begin to yawn immediately after eating! In second place is the white meat of chicken or turkey. Besides the fact that such a dinner will turn out to be hearty and low-calorie, the tryptophan contained in these types of meat will have a calming effect on the nervous system. nine0005

Products containing melatonin

Answering the question whether it is possible to eat before bed, doctors call products containing the hormone melatonin. One of the few sources of it is cherry. So, scientists conducted a study during which they found out that a glass of cherry juice drunk before bedtime helps fight insomnia, even for older people.

In addition, cherries, grapes and green leafy vegetables, especially different types of cabbage, differ in the content of natural melatonin. It is also abundant in corn, rice, wheat, barley, oats, and also in wine. nine0005

Foods rich in magnesium

This trace element is often prescribed for those who have trouble falling asleep and often experience poor sleep quality. Magnesium is a microelement that relaxes the muscles of the body, relieves increased anxiety and sets you up for deep sleep. It is rich in nuts, especially almonds, as well as buckwheat and seaweed.

Foods with a high glycemic index

According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, rice is notable for its high glycemic index, especially its jasmine variety, which is more effective than others in helping you fall asleep quickly and soundly. nine0005

In addition, salty pretzels and crackers have a high glycemic index - that is, they cause a quick burst of energy, which is replaced by drowsiness just as quickly.

Herbal tea

Chamomile tea is the first remedy recommended for insomnia. One cup is able to raise the level of glycine, which gently calms the nerves and relieves muscle tension.

Green tea in the evening will also help you fall asleep much faster, because it is rich in theanine, which enhances the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters relieve anxiety, soothe and relax. nine0005


Fish, especially tuna and salmon, are rich in vitamin B6, which is actively involved in the production of melatonin and serotonin. By the way, among other products, where you can get this vitamin - garlic (exceptionally fresh) and pistachios.

Shrimps and lobsters are another source of tryptophan. A good reason to please yourself with sea delicacies at night looking.


The natural sugar found in honey increases insulin levels and allows tryptophan to interact with the brain more quickly. A teaspoon of honey with chamomile tea before bed will enhance the calming effect of the drink. nine0005

Dairy products

Dairy products promote healthy sleep, because the calcium they contain helps to absorb the amino acid tryptophan and produce melatonin. In addition, calcium also helps to normalize muscle activity and relieves night cramps.

It is known that a glass of warm milk at night, or better with cookies, guarantees sound sleep throughout the night. In fact, this combination is considered a harmful sedative, because it has a powerful relaxing effect. This is due to the fact that in the process of their processing, substances similar to drugs are released into the blood - casomorphine and glucomorphine. They really have a calming effect on the body, but quickly cause food addiction. nine0005

What and why should not be eaten before bed?

There are also products that negatively affect the quality of sleep.

  • Caffeine , found in coffee, chocolate, tea and energy drinks, interferes with healthy sleep. Therefore, you do not need to consume such products before bedtime. Moreover, it is desirable to reduce the daily rate of caffeine to 200-300 mg.
  • Fatty food is digested for a long time and while this is happening, the body is working, not resting. Therefore, ice cream, chips and other sources of fat are not recommended to eat at night
  • Products containing simple sugars : pastries, sweets, jams, industrial sauces, dairy products with additives, very sweet fruits. Their use after 17:00 stimulates the production of hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine, which leads to aggressiveness and irritability.
  • Red meat . Even if a brutal appetite broke out before going to bed, you should not eat it. It contains a lot of fats and proteins, which means that the body simply does not have enough time to digest it, and this will negatively affect the night's rest. nine0030
  • Spicy food should not be on the list of snacks before bed, because this is a direct path to insomnia. The fact is that acute can cause discomfort in the stomach, heartburn, bloating, which certainly will not contribute to sound sleep.
  • Sweet cereal porridge is better not to eat in the evening because the body will not have time to burn all the calories. This type of food is a great breakfast option that gives the body a lot of energy.
  • Alcohol in small amounts can cause drowsiness, but if you regularly consume large doses of such drinks, it can cause problems with sleep.
  • Diuretic products , simply diuretics. These include watermelons, grapefruits, cranberries, sea buckthorn, and so on. Their effect on the body is obvious - all these products stimulate diuresis. In the afternoon, it is better to refuse them, otherwise frequent visits to the toilet in the middle of the night will be provided.

What can not be done before going to bed, but what can be done?

Meal planning isn't just about what you eat in the evening. The foods that are included in your diet throughout the day also matter. Many of them significantly affect how quickly you fall asleep and how long you sleep.

In general, large amounts of food should be avoided before going to bed, therefore, at a late dinner, it is advisable to reduce the usual portion several times.

Snack options that won't ruin your sleep: