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6 Surprising Foods that Make You Sleepy

· Article

6 Surprising Foods that Make You Sleepy

When it comes to the top foods touted for making you feel tired and sleepy, turkey typically tops the list. But some myths are meant to be broken. The sleep experts at health & wellness brand, Sleep Number, walk us through the chemistry, physiology and truth behind foods that make you sleepy.


No, Turkey is Not (Fully) to Blame


Yes, the big bird can make you tired, explains Sleep Number, but a lot of it has to do with everything else on the Thanksgiving table.


Turkey, along with a lot of foods, supplies an essential amino acid, says Sleep Number. It’s something your body needs but can’t produce itself, so you have to get it through your dietary habits.


Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in turkey and chicken. First the body changes it into serotonin, which is a relaxing neurotransmitter, tells Sleep Number, and then it changes that into melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep cycles.


Other complex Thanksgiving food speeds up [tryptophan’s] metabolism into serotonin and melatonin.


There are a lot of dietary items that we should eat on a regular basis that provide that tryptophan. It just so happens turkey is the most famous.


Eats These Foods for Better Zzzs


According to Sleep Number, a sizable list of foods have tryptophan. The list includes:

  • Dried egg whites
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Atlantic cod
  • Cheeses
  • Soybeans
  • Edamame


But the big winner is tart cherries, Sleep Number notes, sharing that studies have shown they increase melatonin levels enough to give you longer sleep time and less tossing and turning.


Also, there’s a flavonoid (one of the flavor enhancements) in cherries that actually increases tryptophan availability.


The fruit also helps reduce inflammation, so it can act as a relaxant as well.


Other Essential Vitamins and Minerals


As tryptophan breaks down into serotonin, it needs a lot of vitamin B6, which can be found in pistachios and bananas, notes Sleep Number.


That’s why pistachios are such a great food at night. In addition to B6, your body needs a lot of magnesium, and magnesium is an essential mineral, meaning your body can’t produce it — it has to come from your diet.


Magnesium does a great job of increasing total sleep time.  It’s a relaxant, and it also increases melatonin levels so you fall asleep faster. It also decreases your cortisol at night. You want to have low cortisol at night to get great sleep notes Sleep Number.


Another food Sleep Number likes to recommend for a nighttime snack: almonds, rich in both tryptophan and magnesium.


Bottom Line


While all these foods don’t directly make you tired, they affect all of the processes in your body that help regulate sleep. Keep them balanced, and your sleep will also feel more balanced.


If you have a balanced diet, your body already produces enough of what it needs, says Sleep Number.


So pass the turkey and the cherry pie — and when your cousin jokes about you nodding off, this year you can blame it on the melatonin and the minerals. Not the turkey.



Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.


Photo by Thomas Quaritsch on Unsplash

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