Expert Opinion

Can food have a positive effect on your sleep?

Food Glorious food, what more could you wish for…. Well, we could all wish for more sleep I’m sure, so why can’t we have both? Did you know that certain foods can actually assist with sleep for our little ones?

Parents would of course want to ensure their babies are getting enough calories so they don’t wake hungry overnight, but it is just as important to understand which foods go hand in hand with sleep.

First thing’s first – when it comes to the main meal of dinner, it’s important to remember your baby needs time to digest this meal, meaning ideally it isn’t offered super close to bedtime. Too close and it causes an increase in metabolism and body temperature, and their little body is working hard to digest the food rather than slowing down into sleep.

So, what are we looking for in terms of ingredients and why?

#1: Tryptophan

Foods high in tryptophan are probably a good start. Tryptophan is an amino acid that aids in the production of melatonin and serotonin. We all know what melatonin is – that magical sleep hormone, and serotonin is the chemical responsible for your mood, helping calm down the body. It also works with melatonin to help control your internal body clock – the circadian rhythm.


Some foods that fit this profile include turkey, chicken, eggs, spinach, beans & legumes, plus cheese & milk – these are also high protein foods which has the added bonus of levelling out our blood sugar overnight.

#2: Iron

We want to be introducing iron rich foods to our babies from a round six-months old. Iron deficiencies have been linked to restless sleep, an inability to fall asleep, plus other health issues.

Iron rich foods include eggs, fish, leafy green vegetables, legumes, red meat, iron fortified cereals, whole grain breads and seeds & nuts.

#3: Magnesium

Another property to consider when it comes to sleep is magnesium. It can help relax our nervous system and bodies and help us fall and stay asleep because it also works with melatonin regulation. Magnesium deficiency, which is common, can lead to sleep issues, so getting more of this into our daily diet is important.


Adding magnesium rich foods can be one part of the bigger picture in improving sleep, these foods include whole grains, seeds & nuts, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, avocado, and bananas.

#4: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also thought to influence both sleep quality and quantity, and studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with less sleep overall including a more disrupted sleep.


While most of our vitamin D is made through exposing the skin to sunlight, small quantities can be found in oily fish, egg yolks and fortified foods.


There is a lot of cross over amongst foods containing more than just one helpful sleep property which helps make dinner ideas a little easier.

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.