Natural foods that contains Melatonin: for a better quality sleep

Insomnia or lack of sleep is a common health problem in present days because of the busy Lifestyles people have. Melatonin is the natural chemical that helps to give good sleep. There are natural foods that can increase melatonin levels in our body.

Sleep is a circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm means an internal clock system that our body’s individual organs follow. It all defines by the neurological and hormonal balance of the brain. Sleep wake cycle is one of that circadian rhythm. And the melatonin is the hormone that control this rhythm.

Melatonin is secreted from pineal gland in the brain. It basically controls the biological clock of animals. It means it defines when we need to sleep. Studies showed that body’s melatonin levels increases when evening or when in a darker environment. The signals from our eyes that transmit to the brain are responsible for secreting this biochemical substance.

There are proven benefits of taking melatonin supplements to improve the sleep. It has a less side effect profile so it is considerably safe to use. Both animal and plant based foods include the substance. Eggs and fish are the main animal based foods, the nuts are the plant based ones.

These are the main food sources that you can get melatonin naturally,

  • Animal foods like eggs, milk and Fish
  • Nuts
  • Cereal
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes and Seeds
  • Juices and Beverages
  • Medical herbs
  • Edible oils
  • Yeast

Eggs, Milk and Fish

These the three food products have more melatonin levels than meat. Fatty fish also is important because it contains lots of omega 3 fatty acids which also a helpful ingredient in having a good sleep.

Animal milks have a high amount of substances than in plasma because they produce melatonin for their babies also. It’s proven that milk taken at night has ten times higher hormone levels than daytime milk. Because at night it’s secreted in higher amounts.

Animal foods contain lots of melatonin
Animal foods are helpful to have a quality sleep


Wheat, barley, oat, rice and corn are the famous cereals that scientifically proven which have higher amounts of melatonin. When considering rice, there are 25 different types of rice were analysed. And it says pigmented rice types have more hormones than others. Also it says polished rice only contains 1/3 of the substance compared with non polished ones.

Cereals contain tryptophan which is the precursor of serotonin, a positive neurotransmitter in the brain and the melatonin. Both these chemicals are essential for good quality sleep. As serotonin determines the sleep latency.


Melatonin can be found in various types of nuts. Pistachio and walnuts are special on those. There are proven scientific studies on both of these nuts to show they have higher amounts of this chemical.

Also nuts contains essential minerals lie magnesium and zinc which are positively acting with melatonin to improve the sleep.


Majority of vegetables contain melatonin. Specifically tomatoes and mushrooms have higher numbers. But studies say that there are very little amount of the chemical in potatoes and beetroot.

Specially tart cherries can improve the circadian rhythm of the sleep wake cycle.

Legumes and Seeds

Melatonin can be found in legumes and seeds very commonly. However specially black and white mustard seeds have higher number of substances. Also it is proven that germination process of legumes and seeds can affects the level of melatonin.

A study found that the substance levels in germinated soybeans is 400% increased compared to raw soybeans.

Also the levels of the chemical is determined by the several other factors in plant sources. Those are the environment which they are cultured, temperature, duration of the sunlight, ripening process and used agro chemicals. But generally most of the plant sources include melatonin.

Juices and Beverages

Bear and wine are the famous drinks which include high amount of substance. It is not only because of the main ingredients they have, but also as a result of fermentation process. Yeast can produce lots of melatonin in fermentation.

Coffee is also a well known drink with high biochemical levels. And most of the fresh juices are included in same category. But it is proven that any type of tea ( green or black ) have zero levels of substances.

Medical herbs

Most of the medical herbs have melatonin. Skullcap and St. John’s wort are the famous herbs which have highest amounts of substance. Studies have found that St. John’s wort includes more than 12 folds ( 1200% ) of melatonin compared to other medical herbs.

Basically most of the Chinese herbs have these chemical. A study performed using about 100 of Chinese herbs revealed that more than 60% of them include melatonin averagely 10 nanograms per dry gram of herbs.

Medical herbs have lots of melatonin
Medical herbs

Edible Oils

Refined linseed oil or flax oil and virgin soybean oil have good amount of substances. But compared to virgin olive oil, refined olive oil has less amount. Anyhow edible oils are good natural supplements of melatonin.


Yeast can produce melatonin in fermentation process of the foods. When yeast cells grow and they processing glucose by fermentation they produce the chemical. It was also noted that high levels of melatonin are there in bear production and bread baking.

Scientists are now using this method in the commercial production of melatonin as well. Thereby using genetically altered yeast cells are used to produce melatonin in considerably larger quantities.

Why melatonin supplements are important ?

After the childhood our melatonin production decreases. Therefore majority of adults have less amount of substances in their blood. And it has proved that taking melatonin included foods can increase the blood levels of the substance.

But there is a drawback. The oral supplements of melatonin is only get absorbed by 15% from our gut. Compared to intravenous medications this is very less amount. But this can be overcome by including above mentioned foods in to your food plates daily.

Other benefits of taking melatonin containing foods

Melatonin is not only a chemical which can promote sleep. But also it has anti inflammatory action which helps to destroy germs and unhealthy cells in our body. It also have antioxidant property which helps to remove harmful waste products form blood. Anti cancer and anti diabetic actions also. Melatonin is also have proven benefit on weight reduction as well.

Is it harmful to take melatonin containing foods ?

There are no side effects of taking foods or drinks include melatonin. The safest oral dose for sleep problems is also 10 mg per day. So it less amount of melatonin enter in to the body daily by foods compared with that number. So it’s safe to eat above foods.

Practice Sleep Hygiene

For better results from the melatonin supplements it’s better to practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene means optimizing your both night and day time activities and environments to get a good quality sleep.

It’s important to follow good sleep hygiene as it will help to improve your productivity and mental health. There are studies that showing practicing sleep hygiene can reduce the stress and even reduce chances of the physical diseases as well.

There are four simple steps to follow.

Make your own sleep schedule. You have to follow a sleep wake schedule. It means even in both workdays and work free days you need to practice getting up and going to bed in a fixed time. You have to prioritize your sleep among with your other works. Don’t mixed your sleep time with your studying, office works or any other work.

If you need any adjustments of sleep it should be done gradually. Never do sudden changes of your sleep patterns because it won’t be a good choice for your health. And don’t get too much of naps. People are used to have naps when they feel sleepy in daytime. But too much nap time can reduce the sleep at night. And your nap time doesn’t count as a sleep by your brain. So if you need a nap do it in the early afternoon and make it short.

Keep your own night routine. You should follow your own routine of works at night. This includes dressing and brushing and anything you do before you go to bed. Keep your bed room light dim and it will helps to increase melatonin secretion. And don’t use your electronic devices when you are going to sleep. Because the screen light is a stimulation to your brain to stay awake.

You can read a book or meditate for few minutes to make your mind calm and quiet. And if you don’t fall on sleep even after 20 to 30 minutes get up form the bed and do some stretches or read a book. It will change your mind. Don’t try to sleep forcefully.

Avoid using digital devices before you sleep
Avoid using digital devices before you sleep

Plan your daily works as well. What you doing in daytime also contributes to your sleep. So it’s better to expose to day light because your brain can identify the difference of day and night. So it will help to maintain your circadian rhythm. Doing some exercises definitely have a positive effect of sleep.

And avoid smoke and alcohol as much as possible. Because those are stimulants to your brain which can reduce sleep quality. And make sure to avoid caffeine at afternoon and evening. It has the same effect as a stimulant.

You should take a light diet at night and it’s better you take your dinner early as possible. Because the more the foods collected in stomach, the chances of having a good sleep is less. And you should reduce the activities in bed at daytime. Make the bed, the place you sleep and not the place you work.

Change your bedroom to a pleasant environment for sleep. Changing your bed sheets and pillows into comfortable and pleasant to see types is important. Also it’s better there is less noise and less lights come into the bedroom from outside. Unless it will be troublesome to make your mind calm.
You can change your bedroom is pleasant to sleep. Use pictures that are comfortable to your eyes. And use light smelling scents that can make your mind peaceful. The important thing is the calmer the mind, easier the sleep.


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  4. R. Bravo,S. Matito, J. Cubero, S. D. Paredes, L. Franco, M. Rivero, A. B. Rodríguez, and C. Barriga. (2013). Tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in elderly humans
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  6. Sleep Dr. Nilong Vyas, Eric Suni. (2020). Sleep Hygiene
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Sapumal Edirisinghe
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