Struggling to nod off at night? The answer could be as simple as what you have for dinner. Two experts share the evening dishes that are packed full of nutrients to promote healthy sleep hormones

We’ve heard the old wives’ tales of not eating cheese before bedtime in order to avoid nightmares, but what if you really could make a difference to your sleep quality  by changing what’s on your plate? That’s what author Heather Thomas and nutritionist Alina Tierney, MSc are promising in their new book, Eat To Sleep, which contains 80 nourishing recipes that have been carefully curated to include the nutrients our bodies need in order to sleep well. 

Be it the magnesium  in whole grains that promotes relaxation or the tryptophan in fish which helps to create the sleep hormone, melatonin , the meals have delicious combinations of everything you need to calm body and mind before bedtime. Here are three snooze-inducing recipes to get you started…

Sweet potato and pumpkin seed cheesy bake

Tomatoes contain the phytonutrient lycopene. Research has shown that people with low levels of lycopene often have problems falling asleep. This bake combines sleep-friendly sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds and cheese.

Serves 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients

900 g/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped

2 tsp cumin seeds

250 ml/9 fl oz vegetable stock

100 ml/3 1⁄2 fl oz half-fat crème fraîche

120 g/4 oz soft goat’s cheese, e.g. chèvre

4 tbsp pumpkin seeds

4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

For the tomato sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 400 g/14 oz can chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

balsamic vinegar for drizzling

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

2. Put the sweet potatoes in a large baking dish and sprinkle with the thyme leaves and cumin seeds. Add a grinding of black pepper and pour the stock over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes or until just tender but not mushy.

3. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a large frying pan set over a low heat and cook the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the sauce reduces and thickens. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Spoon the tomato sauce over and around the sweet potatoes. Dot the top with small spoonfuls of crème fraîche and goat’s cheese. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and breadcrumbs.

5. Turn up the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook for 15 minutes until the topping is crisp and golden.

Seared teriyaki salmon with stir-fried broccoli noodles

A really easy supper for when you arrive home tired after a busy day at work and don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen. The salmon, sesame seeds and soy are all good sources of tryptophan.

Serves 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients

4 salmon fillets

250 g/9 oz egg noodles (dry weight)

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 bunch spring onions sliced

300 g/10 oz broccoli, cut into small florets

300 g/10 oz mushrooms, quartered or sliced

1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the teriyaki sauce

4 tbsp soy sauce

4 tsp mirin

1 tbsp clear honey

1 tbsp diced fresh root ginger 2 garlic cloves, crushed

Method

1. Make the teriyaki sauce: mix all the ingredients together and brush a little over the salmon fillets.

2. Cook the egg noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain well.

3. While the noodles are cooking, heat one tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the salmon fillets to the hot pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked right through.

4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining toasted sesame oil in a wok or deep frying pan set over a high heat. Add the spring onions, broccoli and mushrooms and stir-fry for 4–5 minutes until they are just tender but still retain some bite.

5. Stir in the remaining teriyaki sauce and the cooked noodles. Heat through for 2 minutes and then divide the mixture between four plates.

6. Top with the salmon fillets, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Cherry, oat and almond crumble

Eating cherries regularly can boost your melatonin levels, regulate your sleep cycle and help relieve insomnia. In this fabulous crumble they are combined with oats, almonds and pumpkin seeds.

Serves 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients

900 g/2 lb cherries, stoned

4 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp water

2 tsp cornflour

a dash of lemon juice

3 tbsp flaked almonds

crème fraîche or ice cream to serve

For the crumble

85 g/3 oz butter

150 g/5 oz plain flour

60 g/2 oz rolled oats

4 tbsp ground almonds

60 g/2 oz brown sugar

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

2. Put the cherries, sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes until the cherries are tender and release some of their juice.

3. In a small bowl, stir the cornflour into a little of the cherry juices until smooth and free of lumps. Add to the cherries in the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken. Add lemon juice to taste and spoon into a baking dish.

4. To make the crumble, cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the oats, ground almonds, sugar and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with two to three teaspoons of cold water and give it a stir to create some small clumps.

5. Spoon the crumble over the cherries right up to the edge of the dish. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 30–35 minutes until the crumble is crisp and golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve hot with crème fraîche or ice cream.