Autism Dietitian


Autism Dietitian Blog

The 5 Best Supplements for Restful Sleep

It’s estimated that 2/3 of children with ASD struggle with moderate sleep disturbances.
— Souders et al [1]

It’s estimated that 66% of children on the autism spectrum struggle with moderate sleep disturbances, while the typical population prevalence is 45% for mild sleep disturbances [1]. Studies show us that children with ASD who are poor sleepers exhibited significantly more daytime behavioral problems and parents had a significantly higher level of stress [2]. Diet can be a major factor for sleep quality, with foods/beverages containing sugar, processed carbohydrates, artificial ingredients, and caffeine tend to cause the largest issues.

While diet is one piece of the puzzle, another piece can be nutrition supplements. Certain supplements can be extremely helpful when it comes to sleep quality and ease winding down for bed and falling asleep. Individual needs vary per person, so it’s important to have a dietitian guide you through the specific supplements that might fit yours or your child’s needs individually. If you haven’t read my past article on sleep tips, you might want to open up this article in a new tab: Sleep Tips for Your Child with Autism or ADHD.

Overall, these 5 supplements may help promote restful sleep:


Magnesium is one of the most common supplements for sleep. Magnesium is especially important for many of our neurotransmitters including GABA and serotonin, which are vital for sleep. Vitamin B6 also plays a role in this process. Magnesium can help in overall relaxation and make winding down for bed a bit easier. Some researches say that magnesium is depleted quickly in individuals with chronically high stress, since they use more of the stores than the typical, non-stressed individual.


Foods to eat

  • Almond + almond butter

  • Avocados

  • Brazil nuts

  • Cashews

  • Legumes (beans and lentils)

  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, chia)

  • Leafy greens

  • Bananas

  • Dark chocolate


Inositol is sometimes referred to as vitamin B8, though it is technically not a vitamin. It is a major component of your cell membranes and the production of insulin. There is also research showing that it may have a major impact on the production, metabolism, and regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which promotes restful sleep.


Foods to eat

  • Legumes (beans and lentils)

  • Grains (wild & brown rice)

  • Fruit (cantaloupe, citrus, peaches, bananas)

  • Nuts & seeds


GABA is both a neurotransmitter and a supplement used to promote sleep. GABA helps reduce the the activity of neurons in the brain and nervous system, which has a relaxing effect on both the body and mind. This can help reduce stress, promote a positive mood, and encourage sleep. GABA has also been known to work well for anxiety, stress, and even high blood pressure.


Foods to Eat

These foods can increase GABA production in the body:

  • Beans

  • Lentils

  • Nut & seeds (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)

  • Fish

  • Certain veggies (spinach, broccoli, potatoes)

  • Cocoa


L-Theanine and GABA work hand in hand. L-Theanine is an amino acid that can help boost levels of GABA as well as dopamine and serotonin. It can also lower the levels of stimulating brain chemicals and cortisol that can make the body and mind feel calm. In addition to helping sleep, stress, and anxiety, there is also research to show that it can enhance attention, focus, memory, and learning.


Foods to eat

These foods can increase L-Theanine production in the body:

  • Green tea (use decaffeinated for children)

  • Mushrooms


Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been associated with poor sleep quality and decreased sleep time. As we all know, the best version of Vitamin D comes from the sun. In the summer we tend to have the highest concentrations of Vitamin D and in winter our levels tend to drop. If you notice your child tends to have more sleep issues during the winter months, it might be worth getting their vitamin D checked.


Foods to eat

  • Fortified dairy-free milks

  • Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, etc)

  • Eggs

  • Fortified orange juice



Diet and nutrition supplements can be extremely helpful to promote restful sleep and balance neurotransmitters, and these 5 nutrients are just the start! Many factors can impact sleep, so it’s important to be sure you are getting to the root cause of the issue. My suggestions for doing so would be starting with a dietitian for nutrition counseling and review of Micronutrient Deficiency Panels. For children who are selective eaters, I would recommend starting with Feeding Therapy Coaching along with nutrient deficiency testing. If your child will have a hard time taking supplements, refer to my previous blog: 5 Tips to Get Your Child to Take Supplements.


Looking for Customized Nutrition Guidance for your Child with ASD?




[1] Souders MC, Mason TB, Valladares O, et al. Sleep behaviors and sleep quality in children with autism spectrum disorders. Sleep. 2009;32(12):1566-78. [LINK]

[2] Johnson CR, Smith T, Demand A, et al. Exploring sleep quality of young children with autism spectrum disorder and disruptive behaviors. Sleep Med. 2018;44:61-66. [LINK]