Exhausted? It could have nothing to do with how much you’re sleeping, and everything to do with what you’re eating.

Photo: iStock

Food comas. We’ve all been there. But did you know that when it comes to inducing a state of post-meal exhaustion, not all foods were created equal? Everything we eat is packed with its own unique combination of naturally (or not) occurring chemicals, which can affect our health, bodies and moods in a myriad of ways. So if your next meal brings on the zzzs, it might not be about how much you ate, per se, but what you actually ate in the first place. Here are five foods known for their sleep-inducing abilities, which, you know, might not be such a bad thing, if that’s what you’re looking for.

RELATED: Am I iron deficient, or am I just tired?


Turkey gets its sleep inducing reputation from being a rich source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid used to make our sleep hormones serotonin and melatonin. Researchers say gobbling this protein source alone is unlikely to make you feel sleepy, but when eaten with a carbohydrate food like potato, tryptophan is more easily transported into the brain, leading to its natural sedative effect. Other foods rich in tryptophan include milk, cottage cheese, bananas, eggs, tofu, soybeans and sesame seeds.

RELATED: Could this be the reason you’re tired all the time?

Cow’s milk

It’s a well-known old wives’ tale that a cup of warm milk helps you fall asleep, but the science says there’s some valid reasons why this is actually true. Like turkey, milk is a source of tryptophan, and also contains calcium, a mineral which helps our body convert tryptophan it into serotonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. If sleepiness is not on your wish-list, this doesn’t mean skip dairy. This low-GI food will give you long lasting energy, so visit your barista and opt for a shot of caffeine with your milk.

RELATED: The one thing that will undermine your healthy habits – however well you’re eating

Sour cherries

Tart cherries contain natural melatonin, our sleep-promoting hormone responsible for daytime sleepiness. Although research on the use of melatonin as treatment of insomnia is inconclusive, European researchers found consuming tart cherry juice might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep in healthy adults. They showed modest improvements in length and quality of sleep from consuming tart cherry juice, linking its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals to influencing the sleep–wake cycle.

High GI carbs

Carbohydrates are vital for regulating our energy levels, providing our brain and muscle with fuel, and transporting tryptophan to our brain so it can be made into serotonin, our ‘happy’ feel-good hormone that also induces sleep.

Not all carbs are equal when it comes to inducing sleepiness, with Australian scientists finding meals rich in high glycemic index (GI) carbs like jasmine rice, make us feel sleepier than a low GI source. For optimum energy, swap high GI grains for lower GI options like Mahatma long grain rice, barley or quinoa, also rich in magnesium, which can improve sleep. But if it is a food coma you would like…

RELATED: Why you should treat sleep like a gym class


Chamomile, valerian, lavender, passionflower and lemon balm carry beneficial ingredients that some people say calms their nervous system, allowing the body and mind to relax and helps them get a better night’s sleep. But having something natural, that’s caffeine-free before bed is a good idea. Of course, while herbal tea might not perk you up, its diuretic effect on your kidneys and bladder might.

September 28, 20164:17pm

nutrition | body+soul

Read more