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Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night? Do you wake up feeling tired and groggy in the morning? If so, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis (1)

Lack of sleep can affect your:

  • Mood (2,3)
  • Energy (4,5 )
  • Productivity (6)
  • Overall health. 

It can also increase your risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (7)

Fortunately, there are some natural ways to improve your sleep quality and quantity. One of them is eating foods that are high in melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your pineal gland in response to darkness. And it helps you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper (89).

But factors like stress, aging, and exposure to artificial light, can reduce your melatonin levels and disrupt your sleep (10).

That’s why eating foods that contain melatonin can help you boost your melatonin levels and enhance your sleep.

In this blog post, we’ll show you 31 foods that are rich in melatonin, and how much melatonin they have per 100 grams (about 2/3 cup or 4 ounces) of edible portion. We’ll also explain what melatonin is, how it affects your body, and how to optimize your diet for better sleep.

Let’s get started!

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain (11).  Melatonin is also known as the “sleep hormone” or the “hormone of darkness,” because it helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or your internal clock that tells you when to sleep and when to wake up.

Melatonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in many foods, such as turkey, cheese, and eggs. However, tryptophan alone is not enough to produce melatonin (12).  You also need vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc, which are involved in the conversion of tryptophan to melatonin.

Besides nutrients melatonin production is influenced by light and dark cycles. And levels are usually highest at night, and lowest during the day.

When it gets dark, your pineal gland starts to secrete melatonin into your bloodstream, and when it gets light, it stops. This signals your body that it’s time to sleep or wake up.

Melatonin has many benefits for your health and well-being. It can help you (13)

  • Fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
  • Improve your sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances.
  • Boost your immune system and fight inflammation.
  • Protect your brain from oxidative stress and neurodegeneration.
  • Support your mood and mental health.
  • Prevent or treat jet lag and seasonal affective disorder.

What Foods Contain Melatonin?

Melatonin is produced by the body, but it’s also found in a variety of foods (14).

And eating more melatonin rich foods is a natural and nutritious way to increase your melatonin intake and support better sleep. Incorporating melatonin-rich foods into your diet, like goji berries, tart cherries, and fatty fish, can contribute to your daily intake.

Some foods contain melatonin or can stimulate its production, which can be beneficial for people who have trouble sleeping or want to improve their sleep quality. 

 

31 Foods High in Melatonin

Below are 31 foods that are high in melatonin, along with their estimated melatonin content measured in nanograms per 1 gram of edible portion, based on currently available research and data (15).

Keep in mind, the amount of melatonin in foods can vary depending on the type, quality, and preparation of the food, as well as the environmental factors that affect the melatonin production in plants and animals.

1. Tart Cherries: 13.46 ng/g

Tart cherries are one of the richest sources of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. They also contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can interfere with sleep quality. Tart cherries can be consumed as juice, dried, or fresh. (16)

2. Pistachios: 653 – 660 ng/g

Pistachios are another high-melatonin food that can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. They also provide healthy fats, protein, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which are important for the production and function of melatonin and other neurotransmitters involved in sleep. (17)

Pistachios can be eaten as a snack, added to salads, or used as a crust for fish or chicken.

3. Walnuts: 2.5 – 4.5 ng/g

Walnuts are not only rich in melatonin, but also in omega-3 fatty acids, which can modulate the expression of genes related to circadian rhythms and sleep (18). Omega-3s can also lower inflammation and improve brain health, which can enhance sleep quality and mood. 

Walnuts can be eaten raw, roasted, or mixed with other nuts and dried fruits.

4. Almonds: 0.8 – 39 ng/g

Almonds have a wide range of melatonin content, depending on the variety and growing conditions. They also contain magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, which are essential minerals for muscle relaxation and nerve function.

Almonds can help you feel calm and relaxed before bedtime, and also provide protein and fiber to keep you satiated throughout the night.

Almonds can be eaten whole, sliced, or as almond butter.

5. Goji Berries: 29 ng/g

Goji berries are a traditional Chinese medicine that have been used for centuries to treat insomnia, fatigue, and stress. They are high in melatonin, as well as beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, and zinc, which can boost the immune system and protect against infections. (18)

Goji berries can be eaten raw, soaked, or added to smoothies, cereals, or yogurt.

6. Fatty Fish: 16 – 20 ng/g

Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, are high in melatonin, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium, which can support the production and function of melatonin and other hormones that regulate sleep. (19)

Fatty fish can also lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and depression, which can affect sleep quality and duration. (20)

Fatty fish can be grilled, baked, or steamed, and served with vegetables, rice, or potatoes.

7. Mushrooms: 6 – 18 ng/g

Mushrooms are a good source of melatonin, especially when exposed to sunlight or UV light, which can increase their melatonin content. They also contain vitamin B3, copper, and potassium, which are involved in the synthesis and metabolism of melatonin and other sleep-related hormones (21)

Mushrooms can be cooked in various ways, such as sautéed, roasted, or stuffed, and added to soups, salads, or pasta dishes.

8. Corn: 6 – 9 ng/g

Corn is a high-carbohydrate food that can increase the levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin and melatonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and happiness, while melatonin is a hormone that induces sleepiness and regulates the sleep-wake cycle (22)

Corn can be eaten as corn on the cob, popcorn, or cornbread, or added to salads, soups, or casseroles.

9. Bananas: 5 ng/g

Bananas are a well-known sleep aid, as they contain melatonin, as well as potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which can relax the muscles and nerves, and enhance the production and function of melatonin and other sleep-related hormones (23)

Bananas can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress (24)

Bananas can be eaten as a snack, blended into a smoothie, or sliced and topped with peanut butter or honey.

10. Sardines: 4 ng/g

Sardines are a type of fatty fish that are high in melatonin, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium, which can support the production and function of melatonin and other hormones that regulate sleep.

Sardines can also lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and depression, which can affect sleep quality and duration.

Sardines can be eaten fresh, canned, or smoked, and served with bread, crackers, or salad.

11. Salmon: 3.5 ng/g

Salmon is another type of fatty fish that is high in melatonin, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium, which can support the production and function of melatonin and other hormones that regulate sleep.

Salmon can also lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and depression, which can affect sleep quality and duration.

Salmon can be grilled, baked, or steamed, and served with vegetables, rice, or potatoes.

12. Figs: 3 ng/g

Figs are a sweet and juicy fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as fiber, potassium, and calcium, which can help regulate the digestive system, blood pressure, and bone health. Figs can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Figs can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked, and paired with cheese, nuts, or honey.

13. Sweet potatoes: 2.5 ng/g

Sweet potatoes are a starchy vegetable that are high in melatonin, as well as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and magnesium, which can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and relax the muscles and nerves.

Sweet potatoes can also increase the levels of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin in the brain, which can promote relaxation and sleepiness.

Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed, or roasted, and seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, or maple syrup.

14. Kiwis: 2.5 ng/g

Kiwis are a tropical fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate, which can enhance the immune system, protect the cells from oxidative damage, and support the production and function of melatonin and other sleep-related hormones.

Kiwis can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration. Kiwis can be eaten as a snack, added to salads, or blended into a smoothie.

15. Oranges: 2 ng/g

Oranges are a citrus fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as vitamin C, flavonoids, and hesperidin, which can strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve blood circulation.

Oranges can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Oranges can be eaten as a snack, juiced, or added to salads, desserts, or sauces.

16. Pineapples: 2 ng/g

Pineapples are a tropical fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as vitamin C, bromelain, and manganese, which can enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation, and support the production and function of melatonin and other sleep-related hormones.

Pineapples can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Pineapples can be eaten as a snack, juiced, or added to salads, desserts, or pizzas.

17. Grapes: 1.5 – 8.2 ng/g

Grapes are a berry fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as resveratrol, quercetin, and anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that can protect the cells from oxidative damage, lower blood pressure, and modulate the expression of genes related to circadian rhythms and sleep.

Grapes can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Grapes can be eaten as a snack, juiced, or added to salads, desserts, or cheese platters.

18. Strawberries: 0.5 – 5.9 ng/g

Strawberries are a berry fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as vitamin C, ellagic acid, and fisetin, which are antioxidants that can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect the brain from age-related decline.

Strawberries can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress. Strawberries can be eaten as a snack, juiced, or added to salads, desserts, or smoothies.

19. Tomatoes: 0.5 – 5.1 ng/g

Tomatoes are a vegetable that are high in melatonin, as well as lycopene, vitamin C, and potassium, which are antioxidants that can protect the cells from oxidative damage, lower blood pressure, and support the production and function of melatonin and other sleep-related hormones.

Tomatoes can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress. Tomatoes can be eaten raw, cooked, or made into sauces, soups, or salads.

20. Plums: 1.5 ng/g

Plums are a stone fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as phenolic compounds, vitamin C, and fiber, which are antioxidants that can protect the cells from oxidative damage, enhance the immune system, and regulate the digestive system. (25)

Plums can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Plums can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked, and added to desserts, jams, or compotes.

21. Olives: 1.5 ng/g

Olives are a fruit that are high in melatonin, as well as oleic acid, polyphenols, and vitamin E, which are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agents that can protect the cells from oxidative damage, lower cholesterol, and modulate the expression of genes related to circadian rhythms and sleep.

Olives can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Olives can be eaten as a snack, added to salads, or used to make olive oil.

22. Cucumbers: 1.5 ng/g

Cucumbers are a vegetable that are high in melatonin, as well as cucurbitacins, vitamin C, and water, which are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agents that can protect the cells from oxidative damage, reduce swelling, and hydrate the body.

Cucumbers can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress.

Cucumbers can be eaten raw, pickled, or added to salads, sandwiches, or dips.

23. Peanuts: 1.5 ng/g

Peanuts are a legume that are high in melatonin, as well as protein, healthy fats, magnesium, and vitamin B3, which are important for the production and function of melatonin and other neurotransmitters involved in sleep.

Peanuts can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Peanuts can be eaten as a snack, added to salads, or made into peanut butter.

24. Rice: 0.3 – 3.5 ng/g

Rice is a cereal grain that is high in melatonin, as well as carbohydrates, which can increase the levels of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin in the brain.

Rice can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Rice can be eaten as a staple food, paired with other dishes, or made into rice pudding.

25. Oats: 0.1 – 1.8 ng/g

Oats are a cereal grain that are high in melatonin, as well as carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which can increase the levels of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin in the brain, and relax the muscles and nerves.

Oats can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Oats can be eaten as a breakfast cereal, added to baked goods, or made into oatmeal.

26. Milk: 0.1 – 0.8 ng/g

Milk is a dairy product that is high in melatonin, as well as protein, calcium, and tryptophan, which can increase the levels of serotonin and melatonin in the brain, and relax the muscles and nerves. Milk can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Milk can be drunk as a beverage, added to coffee or tea, or used to make hot chocolate or milkshakes.

27. Eggs: 0.1 – 0.5 ng/g

Eggs are an animal product that are high in melatonin. They’re also high in protein, healthy fats, choline, and vitamin B12, which are important for the production and function of melatonin and other neurotransmitters involved in sleep. 

Eggs can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Eggs can be eaten as a breakfast food, boiled, scrambled, or poached, or added to salads, sandwiches, or omelets.

28. Fish: 0.1 – 0.4 ng/g

Fish are an animal product that are high in melatonin, as well as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium, which can support the production and function of melatonin and other hormones that regulate sleep.

Fish can also lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and depression, which can affect sleep quality and duration.

Try it grilled, baked, or steamed, and served with vegetables, rice, or potatoes.

29. Meat: 0.1 – 0.3 ng/g

Meat is an animal product that is high in melatonin, as well as protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are important for the production and function of melatonin and other neurotransmitters involved in sleep.

Meat can be eaten as a main course, roasted, grilled, or fried, or added to soups, stews, or casseroles.

30. Barley: 1.3 ng/g

Barley is a cereal grain that is high in melatonin, as well as carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which can increase the levels of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin in the brain, and relax the muscles and nerves.

Barley can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Barley can be eaten as a breakfast cereal, added to soups, salads, or risottos, or made into barley water.

31. Flaxseeds: 1 ng/g

Flaxseeds are a seed that are high in melatonin, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber, which can modulate the expression of genes related to circadian rhythms and sleep, lower inflammation, and regulate the digestive system.

Flaxseeds can also lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep quality and duration. (26)

Flaxseeds can be eaten as a snack, added to smoothies, cereals, or yogurt, or used to make flaxseed oil.

How to Eat Melatonin-Rich Foods for Better Sleep

Eating melatonin-rich foods can help you boost your melatonin levels and enhance your sleep. However, there are some tips and tricks to optimize your melatonin intake and make the most of these foods. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eat melatonin-rich foods in the evening, preferably 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. This can help you increase your melatonin levels at night, when they are naturally higher, and prepare your body for sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes foods that contain tryptophan, vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc, which are essential for melatonin production. Some examples are turkey, cheese, eggs, spinach, beans, lentils, avocado, banana, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that can interfere with melatonin production or sleep quality, such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar, spicy foods, and processed foods. These can stimulate your nervous system, disrupt your blood sugar levels, and reduce your melatonin levels.
  • Limit your exposure to artificial light at night, especially blue light from electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. Blue light can suppress your melatonin production and keep you awake. Use dim lights, curtains, or eye masks to create a dark and cozy environment for sleep.
  • Expose yourself to natural light during the day, especially in the morning. Natural light can help you regulate your circadian rhythm and increase your melatonin production at night. Spend some time outdoors, open your windows, or use a light therapy device to get some sunshine.

Do You Need a Melatonin Supplement?

Eating melatonin-rich foods can help you improve your sleep naturally, but sometimes, it may not be enough. If you have a severe or chronic sleep problem, such as insomnia, jet lag, or shift work disorder, you may benefit from taking a melatonin supplement. Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter in various forms, such as pills, capsules, liquids, or sprays. They can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and reduce jet lag symptoms.

However, melatonin supplements are not for everyone. They can have some side effects, such as drowsiness, headaches, nausea, or dizziness. They can also interact with some medications, such as blood thinners, antidepressants, or birth control pills. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before taking a melatonin supplement, and follow the dosage and instructions carefully.

How Much Melatonin Do You Need Per Day?

The optimal amount of melatonin varies from person to person and depends on factors such as age, individual health conditions, and sleep patterns. While there is no universally agreed-upon dosage, melatonin supplements typically come in doses ranging from 0.5 to 10 milligrams. It’s advisable to start with a lower dose and adjust based on individual response.

Safe Daily Intake of Melatonin

Melatonin supplements are generally considered safe for short-term use, but it’s crucial to follow recommended dosages.

For most people, doses of 0.5 to 5 milligrams are effective for improving sleep. It’s advisable to start with the lowest effective dose and consult with a healthcare professional if considering higher amounts.

If you’re considering melatonin supplements, consult with a healthcare provider to determine an appropriate dosage based on your individual circumstances.

While melatonin from food sources are generally safe, it’s challenging to quantify the exact melatonin we take in through diet alone.

Melatonin Tips

1. Consult a Healthcare Professional: Before starting melatonin supplementation or making significant changes to your diet, consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking medications.

2. Monitor Your Response: Individual responses to melatonin can vary. Pay attention to how your body reacts to both food sources and supplements, and adjust accordingly.

3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: While melatonin can support sleep, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and proper sleep hygiene is key for overall health and well-being.

4. Avoid Long-Term High-Dose Use: Experts generally recommended only using melatonin for short periods and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Long-term high-dose use of melatonin supplements have unknown risks.

Conclusion

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain, but its levels can vary depending on factors such as light exposure, age, stress, and diet.

Eating foods like tart cherries, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and grapes can naturally boost your body’s melatonin levels.

By combining a variety of melatonin-rich foods with other healthy lifestyle practices, you can create a holistic approach to support a restful night’s sleep.

For persistent sleep problems, you should consult a doctor or health care practitioner.