While these four stress-soothing hormones are naturally produced by the body, melatonin stands out for one big reason: it’s more popular than ever in supplement form. This makes sense, as various lifestyle factors can impede its production (and who doesn’t have trouble falling or staying asleep these days?). And while you’re probably well aware that melatonin is an alternative to prescription sleeping pills, it’s important to note that it’s also found naturally in a number of foods.
What is melatonin, exactly?
As you may have guessed at this point, melatonin is a hormone produced in our brains. As the light dims, our melatonin levels increase, helping us fall asleep. “While melatonin is best known for regulating our circadian rhythm, it also has antioxidant propertiessays Leila Page, RD, CLT to CO Nutritional Coaching. “The body makes melatonin on its own, but some people may benefit from taking extra melatonin, especially if they have trouble falling asleep.” (If you’re curious about where your starting point is, some integrative health professionals offer testing of melatonin levels.)
It is important to note, however, that the body will process natural forms of melatonin – from food, for example – very differently than melatonin in supplement form. “The impact of [melatonin-rich foods] on our internal melatonin levels varies depending on how much we eat, what time of day we eat them, and whether we eat them in combination with something else,” behavioral sleep specialist Carleara Weiss, PhD, sleep science advisor for Aeroflow Sleep, previously told Well + Good. Nothing to worry about – there no negative side effects have been observed in people consuming melatonin in the form of food or drink– but it’s always good to keep this in mind when increasing your intake of melatonin foods.
5 Melatonin Foods That Can Help You Sleep
As long as there is still limited scientific research When it comes to the exact amount of melatonin found in certain foods, there are a few foods known to be particularly high in the hormone. Below, Page highlights five of the foods known to be among the highest in melatonin.
1. Tart Cherry Concentrate
Tart Cherry Concentrate is the super charged version of Tart Cherry Juice. Two tablespoons of concentrate contain the juice of over 60 cherries. Dawn Blatner, RD suggests creating a “natural jello shot” by mixing two tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate with one tablespoon of chia seeds and chilling the mixture in the refrigerator before pouring it with your dessert.
“On average, the amount of melatonin found in pistachios is among the highest found in foods at about 6.6 milligrams per one-ounce serving, or about 49 nuts,” Frances Largeman RothRDN, author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Cooking, says good + good. “If you’re trying to test pistachios for sleep, eat one serving – 1/4 cup – an hour before bed. Do this every night for two weeks and keep a sleep diary to find out how you feel and if you notice a difference in your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.”
An easy way to pack pistachios is to whip up a batch of these Honey Nut Bars, which were concocted by Barry’s Bootcamp Nutrition Coach and Instructor Sashah Handal. They were designed as a morning pick-me-up, but work just as well as a nice after-dinner dessert or late-night snack. Plus, they’re made with the exact amount of pistachios recommended for an optimal siesta.
Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients, which is why we love all breakfast-for-dinner recipes that celebrate eggs. You can also opt for something loaded with anti-inflammatory spices, like an Instant Pot egg biryani, to pack up your melatonin before sleep.
Finally an excuse to make that turmeric-rich Golden Milk drink you’ve heard so much about! Or you can keep it simple and pour yourself a plain old glass of hot milk (no, not an old wives’ tale). Note that you will want to use cow’s milk as it contains the highest amounts of melatonin.
From a bowl of salmon to a salmon curry to a simple olive oil and lemon glaze, there are many easy and delicious ways to prepare salmon. Feeling lazy? Canned salmon is underrated.
Conclusion on Melatonin Foods
“All of the foods mentioned above can help you sleep by increasing the levels of melatonin circulating in your body since you are consuming melatonin from food. has been found in studies to be an effective option for improving sleepsays Page. “With foods that are very high in melatonin, like tart cherry concentrate and pistachios, you may feel an effect after just 30 minutes.”
If you’re still struggling to get any of these foods on a particular day, Page notes that melatonin supplements aren’t habit-forming, so they can be taken as needed to aid sleep and there’s a wide range of doses that can be used to improve sleep. “Some people may notice a difference by taking 0.5 mg before bed, while other people may need a higher dose, such as 5 mg,” says Page. “Having one serving 30-60 minutes before bed can improve sleep. I appreciate Pink Stork Melatonin Candy as they combine the hormone with passionflower, which is also known to promote sleep. This option contains 2 mg of melatonin per serving.
That said, it’s always recommended to start with a dietary approach, then if that doesn’t work, you can consider starting with a low dose of melatonin in supplement form and work your way up slowly. Note that one should always make sure to consult a doctor, dietician or sleep specialist first, as melatonin supplements can impact certain conditions and interact with certain medications.
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