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Daylight Savings - Foods to Eat for Sleep

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Daylight savings time, especially the change in the clock in the fall and winter months, can wreak havoc on your internal clock. For many, it also includes some minor depression (goodbye sunshine). Aside from using a seasonal light by my desk, I try and include the following list of foods into my diet during the change in the time to help my body get over the negative effects of the dreaded time change.

Cherries are one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin, the chemical that helps control our body’s internal clock, says Keri Gans, a registered dietician in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet. One study—albeit a minor one—found that drinking tart cherry juice resulted in small improvements in sleep duration and quality in adults who suffered from chronic insomnia. (And travellers often take melatonin capsules to combat jet lag). Why not a few cherries, tart or otherwise, to promote sleep?

Milk: You may have fond memories of your mother or grandmother making you a glass of warm milk to help you fall asleep. This may not be just an old wives’ tale. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to the brain chemical serotonin.  Although the topic is a controversial one, some people believe that tryptophan and serotonin might make it easier to sleep. Or maybe a simple glass of milk brings back soothing childhood memories, which help you drift off.

Jasmine Rice  - Jasmine rice ranks high on the glycemic index, meaning the body digests it slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream.  A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming jasmine rice four hours before bedtime cut the amount of time it took to fall asleep in half when compared with eating a high-glycemic-index meal at the same time interval. The authors speculate that high-glycemic-index meals may up the production of tryptophan.

Bananas -  help promote sleep because they contain the natural muscle-relaxants magnesium and potassium, says Gans. They’re also carbs which will help make you sleepy as well. In fact, bananas are a win-win situation in general. “They’re overall health promoters,” says Rosenberg. “We need potassium for cardiovascular health and cognitive functioning.” 




Wine: Alcohol of any kind is terrible for sleep, says Rosenberg. Why? It metabolizes quickly in your system and causes you to wake up multiple times during the night. One study found that a glass of bourbon or vodka mixed with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the amount of time women spent awake during the night by 15 minutes. It also reduced nightly sleep time by 19 minutes and diminished quality of sleep. If you don't refrain from alcohol for your own benefit, do it for your mate. Alcohol makes snoring worse so it will impact you and your potential bed partner, said Rosenberg.

Fast Food: The stratospheric fat content of this particular fast food is guaranteed to be a sleep killer. Fat stimulates the production of acid in the stomach, which can spill up into your oesophagus, causing heartburn. Fatty foods can also loosen the lower oesophagal sphincter, the barrier between the stomach and the oesophagus, making it even easier for acid to get in all the wrong places. In fact, there's almost nothing to recommend this kind of high-fat, salt-laden indulgence if you want to preserve your health, including the quality of your sleep. 


Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that serves several important purposes, like nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. It also creates niacin, which is essential in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin. There are two types of tryptophan: L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. The only difference between the two types is the orientation of the molecule. You can get tryptophan through certain foods or a supplement in powder form.


Tryptophan can be found in some foods, especially those high in protein. Foods known to be high in tryptophan include:

  • chicken

  • eggs

  • cheese

  • fish

  • peanuts

  • pumpkin and sesame seeds

  • milk

  • turkey

  • tofu and soy

  • chocolate

NOTE - In order for tryptophan to be converted into niacin, however, your body needs to have enough ironvitamin B-6, and vitamin B-2. If you feel as though your vitamin supplement intake is being compromised, try taking a daily vitamin.


Side effects of tryptophan:

Tryptophan can have plenty of health benefits, but the supplement can cause a number of unpleasant side effects in people.

The most common are gastrointestinal side effects, which include:

Other common side effects include:

More serious side effects, which warrant immediately

stopping consumption, include:

I think that a really important take away on this topic that I learnt in a presentation I attended by a sports psychologist is that you shouldn't take sleep aids like melatonin/tryptophan if the actions causing your sleep deprivation aren't being addressed. 


If you're on your phone late at night, blue light is affecting your sleep pattern, therefore, you shouldn't take melatonin if you don't intend on removing the negative actions impacting your sleep - your phone late at night.  You need to commit to overhauling your entire sleep routine and environment to obtain a good night's sleep and with those changes, you can fully enjoy the benefits of supplements like melatonin/tryptophan.

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