Bananas for a Good Night’s Sleep? Research Has Found It’s the Perfect Nighttime Snack

You’ve tried soothing herbal teas, calming lavender scents, and strict no-screen time in an effort to catch more Zzz’s. But could America’s favorite fruit actually be the sleep aid you’ve been looking for?

tray with breakfast foods, including bananas, french toast, and coffee, on a bed with white sheets; a dog sits next to the trayRasulovs/Getty Images

They’re often a breakfast or lunchtime food to help fuel your day…but what about pairing a banana with your favorite bedtime tea? For anyone who goes bananas for this vitamin-packed powerhouse in a peel, here’s a great reason to consider enjoying a banana in the evening: bananas may help you get a better, deeper night’s rest, thanks to this fruit’s unique cocktail of sleep-promoting nutrients.

Read 7 Genius Nutrition Hacks a Dietitian Just Inspired Us to Try

Bananas help a happy gut, which makes for a good night’s sleep

First up, bananas are a potent source of prebiotics. These plant fibers feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, promoting everything from better gastrointestinal health to improved brain function.

But bananas are also natural stress busters, according to 2017 research published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. It’s been shown that diets rich in prebiotics can help keep symptoms like stomach problems at bay during stressier times (say, during academic exams or a heavy project at work—read The Banana Health Benefit You for Sure Weren’t Aware Of, Dietitians Reveal).

But also, the study found that prebiotics’ impact on stress sticks with you overnight, enhancing the quality of your sleep, encouraging a restful sleep cycle, and alleviating stress-induced sleep disturbances.

How bananas switch on your sleep hormone

Certain nutrients found in bananas also work to prepare your body for a deep, restorative sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid the human body needs to make melatonin, the hormone that helps us lull off to sleep—and there’s plenty of it in bananas. Tryptophan-containing foods have been shown to improve almost all measures of sleep quality, according to 2020 research published in Nutrients. And while scientists know that the vitamin B6 found in bananas helps tryptophan produce melatonin, the two may also work together to reduce nighttime awakenings, according to a clinical trial published in Minerva Pediatrics.

Also read Can You Use Melatonin for Anxiety? Here’s What You Need to Know

The sleep-promoting mineral most of us are missing

It’s reported that about 60 percent of us aren’t eating enough magnesium—and a review of studies published in Nutrients added another banana benefit to address this problem. The research showed that low levels of magnesium may play a role in sleep disorders.

With almost 10 percent of your daily magnesium requirement available in a banana, tucking into one before bed may help you work toward this target. Read Is Magnesium Glycinate a Sleep Game-Changer? Here’s Why a Dietitian Gives This Supplement a Nod

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Sources
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience: “Dietary Prebiotics and Bioactive Milk Fractions Improve NREM Sleep, Enhance REM Sleep Rebound and Attenuate the Stress-Induced Decrease in Diurnal Temperature and Gut Microbial Alpha Diversity.” Nutrients: “Effects of Diet on Sleep: A Narrative Review.” Minerva Pediatrics: “Use of nutritional supplements based on melatonin, tryptophan and vitamin B6 (Melamil Tripto®) in children with primary chronic headache, with or without sleep disorders: a pilot study.” Nutrients: “Magnesium in Aging, Health and Diseases.” Websites: Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: “Micronutrient Inadequacies in the US Population: an Overview.”

Leslie Finlay, MPA
In addition to The Healthy, Leslie has written for outlets including Buzzfeed News, VeryWell Fit, and WebMD.com, specializing in content related to healthcare, nutrition, fitness, and mental health. As a lifelong athlete and instructor, she’s passionate about learning and communicating the latest in health and wellness..