Good sleep is fundamental for your overall health. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough quality sleep.
There are plenty of quick-fix claims about ways to improve sleep. Some people say that having a banana before bed might help. But there isn’t much evidence to support this.
In fact, eating a banana late at night may cause a big rise in your blood sugar — and this could make your sleep worse.
ZOE’s scientists run the world’s largest nutrition study, with over 50,000 participants so far. We’ve found that everyone’s responses to foods are unique, so your body’s response to a banana may not be the same as someone else’s.
With the ZOE at-home test, you can discover how the foods you eat affect your body. The ZOE personalized nutrition program includes recipes and food swap suggestions, so you can eat for your long-term health goals.
Take our free quiz to learn more.
Below, we explore what the research says about bananas and sleep, and where the banana-sleep link came from. We then look at effective ways to get a good night's sleep.
Sleep research with bananas
Very little research supports the claim that bananas help you sleep. Only one small study has explored the specific relationship.
The researchers found that older adults with sleep problems who ate bananas every day for 2 weeks experienced fewer sleep disturbances than study participants who didn’t eat bananas.
So, if this is the only evidence, where does the claim come from?
Nutrients and sleep
Certain nutrients in bananas are associated with sleep. For example, bananas contain tryptophan and vitamin B6, which are important for the production of serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger) that regulates sleep.
It’s also a precursor of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin levels rise in the evening and encourage sleepiness.
Bananas are also renowned for their potassium and magnesium contents. And research suggests that both minerals are beneficial for sleep.
But it’s important to note: Many sleep studies have assessed these nutrients in far higher concentrations than are typical in a banana. Often, the participants in the studies took the nutrients as supplements.
Could a late night banana harm your sleep?
Bananas are rich in carbohydrates. And researchers have suggested that eating carbohydrate-rich foods in the evening reduces the release of melatonin.
Some scientists also think that blood sugar spikes may interfere with sleep.
Our blood sugar responses are unique to each of us. Still, ZOE scientists have found that 41% of people have very large blood sugar spikes after eating a banana.
If this is you, having a banana late at night might not be the best option.
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Can any foods help you sleep?
Bananas aside, researchers have studied whether other foods can promote good sleep. These include kiwis, cherries, nuts, milk, and oily fish.
But the evidence so far is very limited, so many questions remain. There’s wide variation between how different individuals (and their sleep) respond to these foods. Also, the data is often self-reported.
Overall, there isn’t much evidence that any foods can help you sleep. But, like bananas, these foods are all healthy and can be part of a balanced, varied diet.
Tips for getting a better night's sleep
If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you’re not alone. Around a third of adults in the United States don’t sleep enough, according to the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In one episode of the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast, sleep expert Prof. Matt Walker shares some tips for improving your sleep:
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day.
To bring your bedtime forward, do it gradually, say by 15, 20, or 30 minutes at a time.
Limit screen time in your bedroom.
Make sure the room is cool, dark, and quiet.
Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intakes.
If you’re concerned about your sleep, speak with a healthcare professional about your options.
There’s little research showing that bananas can help you sleep.
The claims are mostly based on studies dealing with specific nutrients that also happen to be in bananas. But many of these studies provided the nutrients as supplements — which had far higher concentrations of the nutrients than bananas have.
In fact, some evidence suggests that eating foods rich in carbohydrates, like bananas, late at night may disrupt your sleep.
Researchers have also looked at whether other foods, like milk, kiwis, and cherries, can help with sleep. But the evidence isn’t strong enough to make solid claims.
Improving your sleep hygiene may help you get enough quality sleep, which is important for your overall health. Having a consistent bedtime, sleeping in a room that’s cool, dark, and quiet, limiting your screen time, and being mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intakes can all help.
If you keep having sleep problems, speak with a healthcare professional about your options.
With ZOE’s personalized nutrition program, you can learn how to eat for your body and your long-term health goals.
To get started, take our free quiz.
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