Even the best of sleepers have trouble some nights, either with getting to sleep or staying asleep, or both. If you find yourself unable to nod off, check your kitchen for a possible solution.

Research suggests these five foods and drinks have a sleep-inducing effect.

Tart cherry juice

tart cherry juiceRaise a glass of tart cherry juice before bed and you may be peacefully snoozing in no time. Tart Montmorency cherries are rich in melatonin.

Researchers assigned 20 volunteers to drink either tart cherry juice or a placebo drink nightly for a week. They recorded sleep quality by way of questionnaires and motor activity sensors. They also took urine samples to evaluate melatonin levels.

Participants who drank the cherry juice had higher melatonin levels, as expected. They also increased their time in bed, their total sleep time and the efficiency of their sleep compared to those who drank a placebo.

Other research has been less encouraging, with some experts calling the benefit of tart cherry juice modest. There's no debate, however, that you're getting a dose of good-for-you antioxidants with each swig. (Photo: Gayvoronskaya_Yana/Shutterstock)

Cereal high in tryptophan

Tryptophan, notorious for triggering the after-turkey nap, is also found in some cereals. Snacking on a cereal relatively high in tryptophan — granolas, oatmeal and cereals with wheat germ — may make you drowsy and ready for sleep, researchers have found.

For one week researchers gave 35 adults with sleep problems cereals with an average amount of tryptophan (about 22.5 milligrams per one-ounce serving) at breakfast and dinner for a week. For another week they got tryptophan-enriched cereal containing 60 milligrams per ounce. For the third week they ate normally.

The study showed people slept the longest and the best during the high-tryptophan week.

Tryptophan works, the experts think, because the body converts it into serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone) and melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.


mixed nutsIndulge in a bedtime snack of walnuts, almonds, cashews or pistachios, advises a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. These nuts contain heart-healthy fats and also boost serotonin levels, helping to beckon a standoffish sandman.

Unlike good-for-you nuts, foods high in heart-unfriendly saturated fats and trans fats (think French fries, potato chips) decrease levels of serotonin, the dietitian warns. If you overindulge, you could soon be tossing and turning. (Photo: margouillat photo/Shutterstock)

A kiwi fruit — or two

Kiwi fruit is loaded with antioxidants and also serotonin, and that may be good news when it comes to your beauty sleep. Researchers asked 24 men and women, ages 20 to 55, to eat two kiwi fruits an hour before bed every night for four weeks.

They looked at the participants' sleep diaries and monitored their sleep/activity tracker watches to see how their sleep was affected. After a month, the men and women had improved total sleep time and fell asleep faster.

A banana

bananasBananas are high in potassium, and that may be good for nodding off. At least in mice and fruit flies, the flow of potassium into nerve cells at night appears to be crucial to maintaining normal sleep, something scientists at Northwestern University recently discovered. Humans have “potassium channels” just as these animals do.

If you're not a banana fan, try apricots, currants or orange juice. (Photo: Maks Narodenko/Shutterstock)

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Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles journalist specializing in health, behavior and fitness topics.