Nutrition: Get tips for better sleep now

Diet has an influence on sleep quality. Not all sleep is the same and should be considered as individually as people’s shoe or body size. Every person has their own genetically determined chronotype. The chronotype shows when your genetic sleep time is and when you wake up. You can find this out using a hair root test, which determines when your body starts to release more of the sleep hormone melatonin. Only when this increased production takes place can you fall asleep after about 2 hours.

Not all sleep is the same

However, the times at which you should eat also vary depending on your chronotype. An extreme late type with a genetically determined bedtime of 3:45 am to 11:45 am, for example, has eating times between 12:15 am and 0:15 am when he can eat without any problems. For a normal person, whose genetically determined bedtime is between 11:30 pm and 7:30 am, this eating period is between 8 am and 8 pm.

When we get up with the alarm clock, our body is not yet ready to eat. So if, for example, a normal person gets up at 6 a.m. woken by the alarm clock, this does not mean that they should have breakfast at that time, as their internal clock is only set to eat from 8 a.m. onwards.

Although it is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and signals to the body that the day is starting, there are also people who are not ready for their first meal until much later. It is important to develop a sense of your body and to listen to your hunger. If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, you are not yet ready to eat and process food. What you should know, however, is that a lack of fluid in the body is often interpreted as a feeling of hunger. We’re talking about the hunger that makes your stomach growl.

Foods that can promote sleep

Some foods are said to have a sleep-inducing effect. It is important to know that the sleep hormone melatonin, which also helps us to fall asleep, is produced from the hormone serotonin. And the body produces serotonin from the amino acid L-triptophan. Vitamins B1 and B6 as well as magnesium are also involved in the process of falling asleep. So if we eat foods rich in these ingredients, we also indirectly promote the production of melatonin and improve our sleep.

Vitamins B1 and B6, which are important for normal energy metabolism and normal functioning of the nervous system, are essential for a good night’s sleep. However, magnesium, which is not sufficiently present in many people, also plays an important role in the process of falling asleep, as magnesium enhances the effect of GABA.

GABA is the messenger substance that inhibits neuronal stimuli in the brain that keep us awake and active. Magnesium slows down the transmission of stimuli, which causes our muscles and nerves to relax. And that helps us to fall asleep better. But magnesium also has another function. It inhibits the release of stress hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline. This also helps us to fall asleep better.

Sleep and your mineral balance

If you have problems sleeping, it is therefore advisable to have your vitamin and mineral balance tested by a doctor to see if there are any deficiencies and then to replenish them with supplements and to include more foods in your diet that contain particularly high concentrations of these minerals and vitamins, which can promote good sleep.

These include bananas, for example, which are high in potassium, magnesium, L-tryptophan and lots of vitamins. A lot of magnesium is found in sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseed but also in avocados.

If you would like to find out more, you can search for foods with specific ingredients on the following page:

However, there are also foods that already contain melatonin. These include olives, pistachios and mushrooms. The former in a combination with magnesium and the latter in a combination with B vitamins. These can also be incorporated into your diet very well and thus support your sleep in a natural way.

Sleep and your gut

However, the prerequisite for this is that your own intestines are healthy and you have no problems. This is because our intestines are responsible for ensuring that all the nutrients enter our bloodstream and this only works if they are healthy. However, too little stomach acid can also mean that nutrients cannot be fully filtered out of the food by the intestine and introduced into our system.

Other foods that can promote the process of falling asleep are so-called calming teas or valerian drops, which have a calming and sleep-promoting effect. Ashwaghanda is also a calming agent that reduces the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to a reduction in cortisol levels. As cortisol is the antagonist of melatonin, taking Ashwaghanda as a dietary supplement in the evening can therefore have a positive effect on sleep.

And a study in the UK showed that a glass of sour cherry juice, consumed by the test subjects in the morning and evening, extended the duration of sleep and increased sleep efficiency.

Nutrition during shift work

If you work an early morning or day shift, you can keep to your own meal times, which you should do if possible.

There are a few things you can do to support your body during the night shift to avoid overloading it with food.

Hot meals

Only very light and preferably warm food should be eaten at night, as the body is not designed to absorb food. Eating at night, i.e. at your own bedtime, is not part of your natural rhythm and is atypical. During this time, the body reduces pulse, blood pressure and body temperature. The production of digestive juices is also reduced. The body goes into recovery mode. and generally lowers the body temperature at night. There are a few things to bear in mind here, as the body generally lowers its pulse and blood pressure at night and produces fewer digestive juices in order to recover. If you eat anyway, it demands maximum performance from your body.

No empty calories

You should also avoid so-called empty calories as far as possible. These are found, for example, in ready-made products, sweets, white flour products, potato chips and cola. Instead, people prefer to eat fruit and vegetables. A vegetable soup prepared at home with a few wholemeal noodles, for example, is a good option for the night shift, as are dishes with pulses and a few nuts or seeds.

As the shift in the natural rhythm means that fat burning is anything but at full speed, it is better to steam or boil vegetables rather than fry them in fat and also avoid high-fat foods before the night shift.

Low phases

If you regularly have to work the night shift, you will also know when your performance is at its lowest point. If this time is known, you should eat something 2 hours beforehand so that your blood sugar level does not drop to its lowest point. This could be a slice of wholemeal bread or a wholemeal muesli, for example.

It can also help to take short exercise breaks in the fresh air.

However, it is particularly important that you stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least four hours before the end of your shift to help you get through the night better, otherwise you will have a rude awakening in bed in the morning in the form of insomnia.

Go’s and no-go’s in nutrition for a good night’s sleep

An adequate intake of a wide range of vitamins and minerals, which support almost all types of body systems and processes, plays a central role in nutrition. This also includes sleep.

There is now increasing evidence that an adequate intake of nutrients is important for sleep. A large study found that a lack of important nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, D, E and K is linked to sleep problems. Although this research does not provide proof of cause and effect, it does support the likelihood that diet affects hormonal processes involved in sleep. In this respect, a balanced, natural diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and eating at the right times are not out of the question and are recommended as the basis for a good night’s sleep.

Studies carried out on the relationship between diet and sleep have shown that a high carbohydrate intake with a high glycemic index increases the number of waking phases at night and reduces the number of deep sleep phases.

It is therefore not at all surprising that the frequent consumption of energy drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with poor sleep quality.

But there are also foods that can specifically promote or prevent good sleep during the day.

Go’s and no-go’s

Go’s are, for example, the aforementioned foods, teas and food supplements, which can specifically promote sleep or the release of melatonin due to their ingredients and thus have a sleep-promoting effect in humans.

No go’s are the foods that can prevent or worsen sleep in all people, among other things because they can suppress melatonin production, which is necessary for falling asleep, or signal to the body that it is not yet time to fall asleep.

These include caffeinated drinks such as coffee, some types of tea and the energy drinks already mentioned. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in the brain. However, adenosine makes us feel tired and calm. If you can fall asleep in the evening despite caffeine, you have already developed such a high sleep deficit that the body falls asleep anyway due to the sleep pressure it feels. This is a very critical condition that should be changed as quickly as possible and the body should be given its restful sleep so that it can carry out its functions, which consist of repair work in the body and the regeneration of the psyche. A lack of sleep makes you ill in the long term.

Poorly digested means poorly slept

Another sleep killer is food that is difficult to digest, which, if eaten too late, slows down the digestive process and makes it harder to relax. You should generally eat your last meal at least 3.5 or even better 4 hours before going to bed and avoid fatty foods as well as vegetables such as cabbage, onions, leeks and peppers. Meat and raw food in general are also included. The digestion process of these foods generates heat. However, in order to enter the necessary resting mode, the body has to lower its temperature a little. In this respect, eating food that is difficult to digest late in the day hinders the process of falling asleep.

Alcohol – first a good thing, then a bad thing

Another food that many people like to consume because it makes them feel relaxed and tired is alcohol. Alcohol should be avoided, however, as it makes us tired but causes us to sleep very restlessly.

After consumption, it quickly reaches the brain via the bloodstream, where it acts as a sedative on our nervous system and slows down the activity of neurons. That is also the dangerous thing about alcohol. We will leave aside the many symptoms and the long-term effects on our nervous system that the consumption of alcohol entails. Let’s just look at its effect on sleep.

Most people are familiar with this situation: you’ve had a glass of wine or beer in the evening, go to bed relaxed and tired from the alcohol, fall asleep, wake up three to four hours later and then lie awake in bed. It then takes time to fall asleep again and sleep is usually no longer restful afterwards.

Strictly speaking, alcohol is a neurotoxin that has an enormous impact on our nervous system. However, as it is considered harmless by most people and advertising ensures that it is presented in a positive light, it is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance that has a major negative impact on our sleep and our brain.

Sweet as sugar, but …

Let’s move on to the last food that can cause people to have trouble falling asleep – sugar! Eating sugary foods raises blood sugar levels, which provides an energy boost in the body and keeps us awake. So don’t eat or drink anything sugary in the evening and avoid dessert, including ice cream, if you want to fall asleep better.


As you can see, there are many ways to promote sleep and sleep quality through diet alone. So it’s worth giving it a try. However, you should also give yourself the appropriate time to do this, because the diet is not a pill that works once, but does not remove the cause. Good things take time – as the old saying goes. There is a lot of truth to this when it comes to nutrition. Try to eat a healthy diet for four weeks and enjoy the results.