Dream dinner recipes: meals to help you nod off

Packed with sleep-friendly goodness, these recipes by nutritionist Alina Tierney and cookery writer Heather Thomas will have you nodding off in no time.

The good news is that it’s possible to sleep longer and more soundly by making a few simple changes to your diet. Adjusting the timing of your meals as well as eating snooze-friendly foods can make a big difference to how well you sleep.

Not eating too late (at least three hours before you go to bed) will give you time to digest your food and help with problems such as difficulty dropping off or interrupted sleep. And think about how you cook your dinner, too. Methods such as grilling, roasting and steaming tend to be kinder to our digestive systems than frying.

In terms of what to eat, it’s all about foods and herbs containing nutrients with sedative properties that can help to relax nerves and muscles and aid our bodies in making the hormones melatonin and serotonin. These hormones are important for healthy sleep cycles, helping us to feel sleepy in the evening, stay asleep and wake feeling calm and rested. And certain nutrients are essential to their production…

Calcium A mug of warm milk before bed is not just an old wives’ tale. Calcium helps the brain to make melatonin and serotonin. Found in: dairy, leafy greens, figs, beans, quinoa.

Magnesium An important mineral that calms the mind and body by helping to relax muscles while steadying heart rhythm. Found in: nuts, seeds, oats, leafy greens, yogurt, oily fish, dried fruit, dark chocolate (note: as chocolate also contains caffeine from the cocoa beans, stick to ones containing at least 70% cocoa solids which also has very little sugar, eat it only in moderation and not too late).

Potassium A muscle and nerve relaxant that also aids digestion. Found in: sweet potatoes, squash, mushrooms, potatoes, beetroot, butter beans.

Tryptophan This amino acid is essential in the production of serotonin and melatonin. Found in: lean proteins such as fish and chicken, dairy, soy products, wholegrains, lentils, bananas and potatoes.

Vitamins B6 & D Both help to regulate melatonin and serotonin production. Found in: oily fish, eggs, dairy, beef, chicken, wheatbran, pistachios.

Classic chicken soup

Soothing and filling on a cold day, this is comfort food at its very best – and a great way to get vitamin B6.

chicken noodle soup
Joff Lee


Stir-fried quinoa and cashews

Quinoa is a good source of calcium and tryptophan, while cashews contain sleep-enhancing calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6 and tryptophan.

stir fry quinoa


Hunter’s chicken with smashed white beans

The smashed beans help to soak up the delicious sauce, as well as providing protein and dietary fibre. Both the butter beans and spinach contain calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Hunter's chicken
Joff Lee


Warm roasted kale, pear and sweet potato salad

A jackpot of sleep-friendly nutrients providing calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B6 and D.

Kale, pear and sweet potato salad
Joff Lee


Smoked salmon frittata wedges

Ideally, try to source wild smoked salmon as it will contain a better quality of salmon’s sleep-enhancing nutrients magnesium, vitamins B6 and D and tryptophan.

Salmon frittata
Joff Lee


Pork ragu with creamy mushrooms and fettuccine

All edible mushrooms, dried or fresh, are rich in nutrients including vitamin D and potassium.

pork and mushroom fettuccine
Joff Lee


Oat porridge with chocolate and cherry compote

We think of porridge as breakfast, but oats are rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and tryptophan. Cherries are one of a few foods to contain natural melatonin.

porridge and cherry compote
Joff Lee


Fresh figs dipped in dark chocolate and nuts

Figs and dark chocolate are both rich in magnesium, making them a good combination for an evening dessert. But remember not to eat the chocolate too late and only in moderation.

figs in chocolate
Joff Lee


Now buy the book with 15% off

Eat to Sleep
Eat to Sleep: 80 Nourishing Recipes to Help You Sleep Well Every Night
by Heather Thomas and Alina Tierney is published by Vermilion, price £12.99. To order a copy for £11.04 until 14 February, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free p&p on orders over £15.