Eat Your Way to a Good Night’s Sleep

Written by Allison Bordewick on

The market for over the counter and prescribed sleeping remedies is vast, and the side effects (drowsiness, confusion, forgetfulness to name a few)—and the effects of mixing the drugs with any other medications you might be on—can be less than appealing. What if, instead of medicating yourself to sleep, there was an easier, more natural sleep aid? What you eat during the day, might be the solution to your bedtime woes. Here are a few food suggestions, along with a recipe to try for each.

Melatonin is a hormone your body produces once the world around you becomes dark.1 B6 is a vitamin needed to make melatonin,2 and fish is a great source of B6. Fish are also rich in Omega-3s, which, according to the Bulletproof Diet, “have been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression.”3 Here’s a recipe for Honey Soy Grilled Salmon with Edamame4 from that will get your B6 (and melatonin) pumping:

  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 center cut skin-on wild salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • 1 1/3 cups cooked edamame
  • Lime wedges, optional garnish
Preheat the grill over medium-high direct heat. Oil the grill grates. Finely chop the cilantro and scallion and mix in the oil and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut two 3-inch long slits through the skin lengthwise on the bottom of the salmon fillets, going about halfway into the salmon. Evenly stuff the slits with the herb mixture. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Stir together the lime juice, soy and honey until smooth. Place the salmon, skin side up, on the grill and cook until well-marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the salmon and continue to cook, brushing the tops with the sauce, until the fish is cooked through, about another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle the tops with the sesame seeds. Serve with edamame and lime wedges.

Broiler directions: Position an oven rack so that a baking sheet set on the rack is about 4-inches below the heat source. Preheat the broiler. Prepare the salmon as above and place the fillets, skin down, on a foil lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil, basting 3 to 4 times with the sauce, until just cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes.

An easy side-dish to your salmon that also packs a B6 punch is Minted Orzo Salad with Chickpeas and Feta,5 courtesy of Andie Mitchell’s lifestyle blog:

Orzo Salad:
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups dry orzo pasta
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 large celery stalk, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
Lemon Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Boil the orzo in the chicken broth until tender. Drain and let cool slightly.

Combine the orzo with the chickpeas, feta, red onion, celery, basil, and mint in a large bowl.

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a blender and pulse until well combined and emulsified. Pour over the orzo salad and toss to coat. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend before serving at room temperature or even chilled.

Many people know that dairy products are a great source of calcium, but did you know that a lack of calcium in your diet may make it harder to fall asleep?6 Top off your “sleep” themed dinner menu with a quick dessert made from calcium- (and protein)-rich Greek yogurt. The Dashing Dish has a mouth-watering recipe for Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt7 that looks too good (and delicious-sounding) to be true:

  • 1 (6 oz) container Low fat Greek yogurt (0-2%)
  • 2 tbs Peanut flour (or 1tbs peanut/nut butter)
  • 2-4 pkts Stevia or 1-2 tbs Honey or Sweetener of choice to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Almond extract (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Chocolate chips (optional)
In a small-medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Top with chocolate chips if desired. Enjoy!

Instead of putting chemically-derived supplements into your body, give one (or all) of our recipes a try. At best, you’ll get a great night’s sleep and at worst, you’re heading to bed on a full stomach. Bon appetite and sweet dreams!

1"Melatonin and Sleep." Melatonin Dosage & Sleep. National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
2Wright, Brierley, M.S., R.D. "9 Foods to Help You Sleep." EatingWell. Meredith Corporation, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
3Asprey, Dave. "The Top 6 Ways to Improve Sleep Using Food." Bulletproof. Bulletproof Digital, Inc., 07 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
4"Honey Soy Grilled Salmon with Edamame" Food Network Kitchen : Food Network. Television Food Network G.P., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
5Mitchell, Andie. "Minted Orzo Salad with Chickpeas and Feta - Andie Mitchell." Andie Mitchell. BlogHer, 07 June 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
6Wright, Brierley, M.S., R.D. "9 Foods to Help You Sleep (Page 5)." 9 Foods to Help You Sleep (Page 5). Meredith Corporation, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
7Farrell, Katie. "1 Minute Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt." Dashing Dish. Dashing Dish, Inc., 15 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.

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