Nutrition and Insomnia

Written by Emmanuelle Flores and Thery Lorenzo

What is insomnia? What causes insomnia?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), insomnia is a type of sleep disorder characterized by unpleasant quality or quantity of sleep, thus affecting proper functioning and daily life activities.[1] 

Symptoms for insomnia include (1) difficulty in falling asleep (2) difficulty in staying asleep or (3) inability to go back to sleep after early morning awakening.[1]

Insomnia may be diagnosed on its own or along with other mental disorders, medical disorders, or sleep disorders concurrently.[1]

Pub by Diego Caña and Shara Cindy Xu

How nutrition affects sleep?

Sleep is essential in maintaining one’s health, restoring energy, and consolidating memories. One factor that may affect one’s sleep quality is dietary intake. The mechanism for this is tryptophan competing with other large neutral amino acids in crossing the blood-brain barrier.[2]  Tryptophan then is converted to serotonin, the precursor of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. 

Proper diet for better sleep

Foods to consume

A high intake of milk, fish, and vegetables was associated with good sleep quality due to its high amount of tryptophan.[3] Also, the higher fiber content in food and non-juice fruit is associated with a lower incidence of insomnia.[3]

Foods to avoid

It was found that there is a significant trend toward worse sleep quality with increasing intake of carbohydrates, such as confectionery and noodles.[3] However, the quality of the carbohydrates affects the sleep quality more than the amount of intake. Those with poor sleep consume more confectionery and noodles than rice. Additionally, consuming energy drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages more than once a month implies poor sleep quality.[3,4]

It should be taken into account that there are still more studies needed to further understand the mechanisms underlying the relationship between dietary intake and sleep outcomes.[2,3,4] Hence, consultation and regular monitoring by a qualified physician and dietitian are advised. 


The contents of this article are for educational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for professional or personal medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek advice from your mental health professional or other qualified health providers about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page/website.


[1] American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (5th ed.) [E-book]. American Psychiatric Association.

[2] Binks, H., E Vincent, G., Gupta, C., Irwin, C., & Khalesi, S. (2020). Effects of Diet on Sleep: A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 12(4), 936.

[3] St-Onge, M. P., Mikic, A., & Pietrolungo, C. E. (2016). Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 7(5), 938–949.

[4] Zhao, M., Tuo, H., Wang, S., & Zhao, L. (2020). The Effects of Dietary Nutrition on Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Mediators of Inflammation, 2020.

In a time of a global health crisis, mental health issues have drastically increased due to the lack of physical, emotional, and spiritual connection. In line with this, the Philippine Association of Nutrition Alpha Chapter presents you #MentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthMondays.

This project aims to promote mental health information in the aspect of nutrition. 

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