Do you struggle to get a good night's rest? Kerry Torrens explains how a few diet changes can make all the difference…

How to get a good night's sleep

Insomnia affects about a third of the UK population and, for a male client of mine in his late 40s, it was leaving him drained and unable to manage his business, adding to his already high stress levels.

After having a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, my client drank coffee throughout the day, had a sandwich for lunch and ate his main meal in the evening. He often caught up with paperwork or emails before going to bed.

My advice to this client was…

  • Zingy chicken stir-fry Swap sugary cereal for a wholegrain alternative topped with milk and a sliced banana.
  • Choose protein foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan. This helps boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Chicken and turkey, milk and dairy, nuts and seeds are all good choices.
  • Combine these with rice, pasta or potatoes to help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan. Try a chicken and noodle stir-fry or similar. Aim to eat your main meal earlier in the evening – the act of eating pushes up the body’s core temperature and this can disrupt sleep so eat your evening meal at least 4 hours before retiring for the day. Last thing, a glass of warm milk with a cracker or oatcake can be useful.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake gradually. Try decaffeinated coffee or caffeine-free drinks like red bush tea. Have your last caffeine-containing drink no later than lunchtime.
  • Build relaxation and exercise into the day to help manage stress.
  • Avoid using a computer late in the evening as the light from the screen can have a stimulatory effect.

The result?

After a month, my client had made several diet and lifestyle changes, and his sleep quality had improved. However, his stress levels remained high, so I suggested that he visit his GP for this.

Recipe suggestions…

Dippy eggs with Marmite soldiers Malted walnut seed loaf

Dippy eggs with Marmite soldiers

Fruit & nut granola

Zingy chicken stir-fry

Spicy turkey & pepper bake

All-in-one chicken, squash & new potato casserole

Thai turkey stir-fry


Do you have trouble sleeping or have you beaten insomnia by making changes to your diet? Let us know below.


This article was updated on 7th July 2017 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.

A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

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