Best foods for sleep: The parent edition

Chloe McLeod, Accredited Practicing Dietician


As any Mum will attest, getting enough sleep can be a near impossibility. With child #1 waking up early, and child #2 still struggling to sleep through, it’s highly likely that every time you hear the recommendation of ‘7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep’, and then hear about just how bad it is for you to NOT get that, you’re pretty ready to throw your phone in the toilet (if your 2-year-old didn’t already!).

What can you do though to help yourself get the most of the sleep you do get? What will help improve the quality of your sleep, especially when that 7-9 hours is just an impossibility? Here are the three of the best foods to eat before bed, some to avoid, to help ensure you get that great night’s rest.


What to eat for a good night's sleep

1. Fatty fish

There’s nothing like some baked or BBQ salmon for dinner, and how good is it that science backs this as a great option for dinner? Research has found that over a period of time, those who ate fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines) a few times a week reported better sleep quality and better daytime alertness than those who ate less or none. This was contributed to the vitamin D and omega-3 content of fish, which has known impacts on brain health and function, as well as the vitamin B6, which encourages the production of melatonin.


2. Tart cherries

Tart cherries, in particular, have been used in sleep studies due to their high melatonin content. Melatonin is a hormone involved in our sleep cycle, where it’s levels are highest in the night time, which helps to regulate our circadian rhythm. The body naturally produces melatonin, but research suggests that melatonin might be useful in sleep disorders. Note that tart cherries and tart cherry juice are more beneficial than sweet varieties, as sweet cherries have much lower levels of melatonin. Other fruits that can help with sleep include kiwi fruit, berries and bananas.


small white bowl filled with blueberries


3. Milk or Yoghurt

Remember that old wives tale of a glass of warm milk before bed helps you sleep? Well, the old wives were onto something. Milk and yoghurt both contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is involved in the production of both serotonin and melatonin, which promote sleep. Incorporating these, along with a meal that is rich in low GI carbs in the evening has been shown to be great for helping to induce that quality sleep you are after.


Food and drink that can negatively impact sleep - What to avoid

Avoiding the intake of substances that either disrupt sleep or act as stimulants in the hours before bed is encouraged.

1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a big one, but remember to slow or stop intake by early afternoon is encouraged, as it can still be affecting you up to 10 hours later!

2. Alcohol

I know I know, that glass of red DOES help you sleep… right? If only. Unfortunately, whilst it may make you feel sleepy, alcohol actually stops your body moving into the REM phase of sleep, also known as the bit of sleep that is ‘where the magic happens’. Drinking alcohol before bed is likely to actually leave you feeling more tired because this hasn’t been as effective.

3. Refined sugar

Lollies, soft drinks, sweets… these can provide a big spike in energy, and aren’t what will help your body settle down prior to going to bed. Choose carbohydrates that digest slowly, and will leave you feeling satisfied until morning instead.


About the Author

Chloe Macleod is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, specialising in gut health, food intolerances and sports nutrition, and co-owner of nutrition consultancy, Health & Performance Collective. With over 10 years of experience in the industry, Chloe is passionate about helping individuals make positive changes to their lifestyle.  Chloe’s expert knowledge working with individuals, corporates and food industry provides a sought after ability to help her clients be their healthiest selves.

A passionate Mum of one (soon to be two!), Chloe knows first hand the challenges all parents face when life changes, and you are lucky enough to have little people to run around after each day.

Find Chloe on Instagram or on


For more sleep tips check out our 'Better Sleep for Parents' page.


With love,

eP X


Mums lying in bed with their newborn baby wearing ergoPouch Maternity robes and baby wearing layer romper.

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