Skip the cup of coffee or the nighttime sleep aid and try one of these foods instead for a natural way to wake up or settle down.  

It’s a strange phenomenon that you can pour yourself a glass of red wine at dinner and somehow find yourself falling asleep on the couch by 8 p.m. The foods we consume are crucial to our daily functioning, and in the same way can affect how alert and awake we are for the morning meeting, and how quickly we fall asleep at bedtime.

If you’re looking to swap out your daily cup of joe or fall asleep without hours of tossing and turning, try one of these sleep-affecting foods in your daily routine.

1. Hot Sauce

Adding hot sauce to your meal may mess with your sleep. The spicy stuff can keep you awake and increase your body temperature at bedtime, making it harder to fall asleep. Learn how to make it at home here.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

2. Soy

Snack on edamame, make a tofu stir-fry for dinner, or warm up a steamy bowl of miso soup for some extra magnesium. The mineral helps relax muscles and makes it easier to catch some z’s.

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3. Avocados

If you needed another reason to love avocados, their high amounts of unsaturated fat can increase your serotonin levels, the chemical that stimulates the part of your brain that induces sleep. They are also high in magnesium, which can help you hit the hay.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

4. Hummus

Chickpea hummus is high in the amino acid tryptophan, the chemical that can help you fall asleep normally. The versatile beans are also high in folate, which helps regulate sleeping, and Vitamin B6 which helps regulate your internal clock. If that’s not enough to get you munching your way to shut-eye, the creamy dip is also high in the muscle-relaxing mineral, magnesium. Try our Green Pea and Parsley Hummus Recipe (pictured above).

Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

5. Dark Chocolate

Snagging a milk chocolate bar instead of coffee will definitely give you a sugar high and caffeine-like buzz, but dark chocolate can have the opposite effect. Dark chocolate contains serotonin, which may cause you to nod off.

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6. Red Wine

It always seems a little odd that a glass of red wine can make you doze off, but it actually comes from the skin of the grapes. Melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone we naturally produce, is found in most skin-on grape related foods. But beware of the sleepy side effect; alcohol is known to make you tired but will later prevent your body from reaching the deep sleep it deserves.

Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

7. Apples

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it can also help keep you awake. Apples are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, natural sugar, and phytonutrients that help you feel more alert. The sugar is slowly released in the body, keeping you alert without the coffee crash later on.


8. Peppermint

This herb is perfect for increasing productivity, helping you feel focused, and staying awake during long days. But what really counts here is the scent of peppermint, so sip on a cup of tea, chew sugar free peppermint gum, or keep a few peppermint candies in your bag for a pick me up. 

(P.S. These Flourless Peppermint Brownies are delicious)

Credit: Photo: Katherine Flynn

9. Rosemary

Sprinkle this herb over your eggs in the morning for a wake up call. The smell is known to increase brain activity and increase your body’s energy to help you perform better throughout the day.

10. Banana

The combination of potassium and magnesium help relax your body and trigger those sleepy symptoms. You can also enjoy that banana before bed for some extra tryptophan, which will knock you out in about an hour, and vitamin B6, which has been linked to a better night sleep.

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11. Cherries

The number one food to induce sleep is none other than cherries. The fruit is naturally high in the sleep inducing hormone melatonin, and has been linked to catching some quality shut-eye. There’s so much melatonin in these bad boys that tart cherry juice has been known to cure insomnia.

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12. Fish

Similar to your Thanksgiving Day tryptophan-induced nap, other lean proteins like fish contain high amounts of the sleepy substance. Some varieties, like salmon, tuna, and snapper, also have vitamin B6, which helps in the production of melatonin.

Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

13. Nuts

Most nuts provide a healthy source of calcium and unsaturated fats, which help improve serotonin levels. If you need a little extra, almonds have high amounts of magnesium that promote relaxed muscles and sleepy feelings while Brazil nuts are high in selenium, helping you sleep soundly.