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7 Sleepy Time Foods to Increase Melatonin

One of the number one complaint I receive as a therapist, coach, and friend is about sleep. In our fast-paced, hustle mentality society the consensus seems to be that we aren't progressing if we aren't busy. And we are always busy. When it comes to sacrifices to be made in order for us to get more done, sleep is one of the first things out the window. Three weeks ago, we explored together the concept of sleep debt. When we don't get enough sleep, the total accumulated hours of missed sleep equals our sleep debt. We further discussed 8 tips to try to help increase restful sleep. For a refresher, see article "How Much Sleep Debt Do You Own?" As I continued researching more tips to help us get our sleep cycles back on track, I stumbled across foods as a means to get more sleep. Yes. Food.

Melatonin is more than just and over-the-counter supplement our grannies and doctors recommend we get to help us sleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in our brains that help us sleep. It's what helps regulate our circadian rhythms and tells our bodies when it's time to go to sleep. So how does it work? Generally, when it gets dusk meaning that there is less light in the evening sky, our brain begins the process of producing melatonin. Thanks to electricity, this process has been disrupted more than ever by our artificial lights, TV, phones, and tablets. So how to reset the clock so to speak on our melatonin production? The answer may just be found in the foods we eat. Here are 7 foods to try to help with boosting melatonin production and boost sleep.


I know, I know. When I think eggs, I think breakfast as in the morning. However, according to the WebMD article, "Food High in Melatonin," eggs not only offer us protein and iron but it is also one of the best sources of melatonin. Eggs are also known to contain tryptophan, an amino acid that has been linked to sleep and improved mood.

Warm Milk

I have seen this countless times in older movies and TV shows. Child is restless and his or her mother gets them a warm cup of milk while they chat. Before long, Mr. Sandman comes knocking and the child is asleep. Much like eggs, milk contains the compounds melatonin and tryptophan. Calcium in milk is also important in melatonin production. But get this. The amount of melatonin in the milk is elevated if the cow was milked at night.


Interesting thing. When I was younger, you could not pay me to eat mushrooms. Not even on a pizza. However, in the last few months, I have noticed that mushrooms have made their way into my diet. Mushroom is one fungi that is low in calories but rich in melatonin and tryptophan.

Tart Cherries

Whether you eat the cherries or drink tart cherry juice, you will find that this food is both rich in antioxidants and melatonin. Generally tart cherries are not sweet but are sour. However, if you drink the tart cherry juice be mindful that it can be high in sugar; opt for the no sugar added option whenever possible.


Nuts are the richest sources of melatonin of all the plant foods with pistachios and walnuts being especially high in melatonin. Pistachios are also high in vitamin B6 which help convert tryptophan into melatonin. Walnuts have been linked to other health benefits including improved cognition; however, walnut's melatonin content is not as high as pistachios.


Fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon are good options as they all provide tryptophan. Fish also contains magnesium which is a notable mineral for helping promote sleep as well. Even having a can of tuna or can salmon as a light snack before bed may help improve your sleep over time.


I love white rice which unfortunately doesn't make the cut here. It is the pigmented rice that are higher in melatonin content. Red rice is known to contain more melatonin than any other rice. It also is rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants of the flavonoid family which are purported to reduce inflammation and provide protection from conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

So what did you think of this list? Were there any surprises on there for you? Do you see any you'd like to incorporate more of into your diet to help improve your sleep? Or do you happen to know of any other melatonin rich foods known to help improve sleep that I missed? Please join in the comments below. Food and drinks alone will not likely have enough melatonin to make drastic impact on your sleep. However, pairing it with other sleep hygiene tips may be just the ticket you need to improve the quality of your sleep and put you on the path of eliminating sleep debt. As always, please remember as you begin this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading and a good night's rest to you.

"My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just to enjoy your ice-cream while it's on your plate. ~Thornton Wilder

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