There’s plenty of advice to help you get to sleep and avoid insomnia. From relaxing in a warm bath and putting lavender on your pillow, to avoiding alcohol and ditching your electronic gadgets in the evening – there are lots of actions you can take to help you sleep. But a banana before bed? Actually, what you eat can help stop insomnia. Food for sleep can help you get a restful night’s sleep and wake up refreshed.

Insomnia, sleep disruption and lack of sleep is a big problem for many. Recent reports found that one third of the UK population suffers from insomnia.

Insomnia and lack of sleep can be the result of various factors, such as depression, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and poor sleeping habits. Lack of sleep can have detrimental effect on your health.

Most sleep experts agree that a healthy diet can help you avoid insomnia and get a good night’s sleep. There are also certain foods for sleep that can help you drift off more easily and stay asleep throughout the night.

The general rule is to look for protein foods rich in an amino acid called tryptophan – which is what makes eating a banana before bed a good idea. Tryptophan helps your body produce serotonin and melatonin, which regulates your sleep-wake cycles.

Look for foods offering a mix of calcium, potassium, magnesium and B6 – all of which may help bring on sleep.

Here are some of the best food for sleep choices to help you settle down for a quality rest.

A banana before bed

The UK’s most popular fruit, bananas are great sleep inducers. They are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, both of which are muscle relaxants. A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that low levels of magnesium make it harder to stay asleep. In addition, magnesium deficiency is linked to restless leg syndrome, which can be extremely disruptive to sleep.

A lack of potassium can also make it hard to fall asleep and an associated drop in blood sugar causes early hours wakefulness. Bananas contain tryptophan, which convert to serotonin and melatonin, making it a natural sedative.

A banana before bed is easy: simply peel and eat a banana or enjoy a banana in a delicious smoothie.

Almonds before bed

If you don’t fancy a banana before bed, then almonds are a good alternative. Almonds are packed with sleep-inducing tryptophan along with magnesium, which helps your muscles relax and promotes sleep. Being protein-rich, they have the added benefit of helping to maintain a stable blood sugar level so you sleep more soundly.

Try snacking on a handful of almonds before bed or spread some almond butter onto wholegrain toast or a cracker.

Chamomile tea for sleep

Chamomile has been a popular herbal medication since ancient times. As a tea and oil, it’s traditionally used to calm nerves and encourage sleep. Several studies have confirmed chamomile’s tranquilizing and sleep-inducing qualities. A Japanese study even found that chamomile extract helped rats fall asleep as quickly as if they had been given a dose of the tranquilizer benzodiazepine.

To use chamomile tea to stop insomnia and get a good night’s sleep, use two or three camomile tea bags and cover the pot or cup while it’s brewing to keep oils in the water. This helps you get the full medicinal effects of the tea, helping aid sleep.

Tart cherry juice

If you don’t fancy eating a banana before bed to help you sleep, try drinking a juice instead. Tart cherry juice has been the subject of recent studies that indicate it can help prevent insomnia. Recent research by Louisiana State University discovered that twice-daily drinking of Montmorency tart cherry juice increased sleep by nearly one-and-a-half hours  and was especially effective for older adults suffering insomnia.

Tart cherry juice contains proanthocyanidins – a natural plant chemical. This reduces inflammation and helps breakdown tryptophan – making it have an effect on your body for a longer period. Tart cherry juice is also rich in melatonin, a hormone that plays a vital role in our sleep-wake cycle.

Struggling to sleep? Read our guide I can’t sleep! How to quickly overcome insomnia.

A kiwi before bed

Some fruits, such as cherries or a banana before bed can help sleep – and the same appears to be true of the kiwi fruit. A recent study by Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University published in Psychology Today found that kiwi fruits are great at helping you fall asleep and improving sleep quality. Participants in the study found reported a reduction in time it took to fall asleep by around one third, and sleep quality improved by over a third. Participants in the study reported that they slept around 10% more than previously.

This is probably because kiwi fruits contain serotonin and folate, as well as essential vitamins such as vitamins C and E – all of which may improve sleep quality and help with insomnia symptoms. The trick appears to eat two kiwi fruits around an hour before bed to have an impact on sleep quality and help fall asleep quicker.

Drink milk to help sleep

Warm milk is seen as a classic drink to help sleep but while nutritionists are split on the proven benefits of drinking milk before bed. Milk contains both calcium and tryptophan, both of which play an important role in the production of melatonin. This is vital for our wake-sleep cycle control and aids relaxation before sleep.

While many people opt for a mug of warm milk to help sleep, you could mix it with other foods for sleep to help its effectiveness. For example, a bowl of oat-based cereal with milk and topped with a banana before bed may help with insomnia.

Menopause causing sleepless nights? Read how to naturally relieve the symptoms of menopause with our guide Menopause supplements: 10 supplements to relieve symptoms.

Oats and honey as food for sleep

Oats and honey may help tackle insomnia and get you to sleep quicker and easier. Enjoyed in combination, oats and honey are great food for sleep.

Honey is high in natural sugars, which can help tryptophan enter the brain due to the increased insulin level honey raises. Honey also encourages the release of melatonin and reduces stress by clocking the release of orexin.

Oats help promote sleep as they also foster insulin production and raise blood sugar levels. Oats also contain calcium, potassium and magnesium, helping with the production of melatonin.

Try a bowl of oat-based cereal or make overnight oats, which can be topped with honey and eaten with a banana before bed to help you get a good night’s sleep and reduce the suffering caused by insomnia.