Sleep and nutrition are both indispensable processes for our existence, without which we cannot live. It can be said with certainty that a balanced diet greatly influences our sleep, because some foods provide nutrients that are precursors of hormones that regulate the circadian rhythm, melatonin (regulator of the sleep-wake cycle) and serotonin (hormone of good mood) , the whose production depends on the availability of Tryptophan, an amino acid precursor of these hormones.

Some examples:

  • the carbohydrate complexes such as bread, pasta and cereals, favoring the bioavailability of tryptophan;
  • the vitamins of the B and C group  involved in the synthesis of the hormone melatonin;
  • The micronutrients key, such as potassium, magnesium and selenium, positively affect the quality of sleep and are implicated in neuromuscular relaxation.


Sleep contributes to physical recovery, supports mental well-being, and during nighttime sleep produces a number of factors (hormonal and enzymatic) that affect our ability to metabolize food and regulate our sense of hunger.

The cortisol, for example, is a hormone involved in the body’s ability to respond to stress that favors the accumulation of fat, is modulated in its secretion during sleep and is therefore intuitive as quali-quantitative alteration of sleep may interfere with the production of this hormone.

People with different sleep disorders have a greater production of daytime ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which promotes overweight. Another example is growth hormone (GH), which is released mostly in the early part of the night during deep NREM sleep; this hormone is responsible for growth in children, but in adults it participates in the regulation of metabolism, muscle trophism and bone.


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The most common dietary mistake is to take stimulating substances during the evening meal or before bedtime such as coffee,  alcoholic beverages  or foods containing monosodium glutamate. During dinner it is advisable not to overdo the portions and condiments, using simple cooking methods (foil or steam) avoiding foods rich in fat (sausages, salami, wurstel and similar) and particularly elaborate dishes with cream, béchamel or fried food. It would be good not to overdo it with meat and animal proteins.

These foods stay longer in the stomach because they need more gastric juices and more time to digest. All substances that increase blood pressure and heart rate prevent easy falling asleep, since the cardiovascular system must also “slow down” 30 minutes before sleep itself.

An exciting action has also been attributed to aged and fermented cheeses for their high tyramine content , which causes blood pressure to rise.  Excess salt and hot spices (chilli, pepper or paprika) are also enemies of good sleep .

Regularize the circadian rhythm

Scheduling meals at the same times every day helps to regulate the circadian rhythm and therefore to promote a better sleep-wake cycle. It would therefore be advisable not only to get up and go to bed every day at about the same time (including holidays), but also to always have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same times.

Start the day with the right breakfast

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Skipping breakfast positively correlates with obesity, metabolic syndrome, poor diet quality and even poor sleep quality. On the contrary, having a healthy and complete breakfast every day positively affects brain and metabolic function, improves overall nutritional intake and quality of sleep. The ideal breakfast should include a source of natural whole grains, fresh and dried fruit, a serving of milk or plain yogurt or unsweetened, calcium-fortified plant alternatives, and a source of liquids such as green tea or barley coffee.

Redistribute energy in meals

Consuming most of the energy intake between breakfast and lunch promotes an improvement in circadian parameters. In addition, a light dinner eaten early decreases the risk of gastric acidity and obesity, improving our rest. It is therefore essential to avoid large meals in the evening and avoid consuming foods that require very long digestion times. Foods richest in fats such as fries, dips, desserts, but also sausages and aged cheeses, are the most difficult to digest and should be avoided at dinner. Finally, even the cooking methods influence the digestion times of food and the techniques to be preferred are the simplest ones and without adding fat: steaming, grilled, grilled, baked or baked.

Different drinks, opposite effects

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For those with sleep disorders, drinks containing caffeine and other nerve stimulants should be limited, especially in the late afternoon / evening. It is therefore better not to consume coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and the like after 14:00.

Alcohol is also the enemy of good sleep, so its consumption should be avoided or at least reduced to a minimum, especially in the evening.

Drinking herbal teas based on relaxing herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, mallow, valerian and passion flower in the evening can help you fall asleep better. But don’t drink them too late, or you’ll wake up at night to pee!

Prefer foods that stimulate the production of melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle. To produce melatonin, our brains need tryptophan, magnesium and B vitamins (in particular B6, B9 and B12), nutrients that we must regularly take in with our diet.

The foods that contain these nutrients in the greatest quantities are legumes (such as beans, chickpeas and lentils), oleaginous nuts (especially almonds, walnuts and cashews), whole grains, green leafy vegetables (such as lettuce, broccoli, spinach , asparagus, artichokes), and foods of animal origin (fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products), the latter being the only food sources of vitamin B12.

Dinner with complex carbohydrates

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Put simply, carbohydrates have relaxing abilities as they carry tryptophan to the brain, where it can be turned into melatonin. However, it is important to choose whole carbohydrates, which maintain a low glycemic load of the meal and provide more


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The perfect dinner for a good sleep should include a portion of:

  • whole grains such as oats, barley and whole wheat (whole wheat pasta or bread);
  • protein foods in not excessive quantities and low in fat such as, for example, legumes and fish or white meats;
  • seasonal vegetables (choosing those rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and selenium such as asparagus, artichokes, pumpkin or courgettes, spinach etc.);
  • fresh fruit (such as kiwi, cherries or red fruits, apricots, peaches about 150gr) or one of dried fruit (walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds without about 30 gr).

As a condiment, use good extra virgin olive oil (preferably raw) and aromas such as basil, marjoram and oregano or seeds instead of salt. Not everyone knows that sesame seeds are rich in tryptophan.

 In addition to a healthy diet, therefore, it is good to take a break from technology. The best way to repair the circadian rhythm is to stop using the technology for at least two hours before falling asleep , dim the lights, and reduce exposure to blue lights before going to sleep and relaxing.


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