Some people have trouble falling asleep. Others can’t stay asleep. And then there are the people (um, me!) who have trouble turning “off” life and tucking into bed at a reasonable hour.
Whatever the reason, we’re not alone – more than 50 million Americans don’t get enough shut-eye. Yet the health benefits of a good night’s rest are countless: Sleep helps keep you happy, your brain sharp, your immune system strong, your waistline trim, your skin looking youthful. It also lowers your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Here’s the good news: Adding certain foods to your diet may help to increase your odds of successful slumber. (Though these foods won’t complete whatever to-do item is keeping you up late.)
Here’s what you can eat for a better night’s sleep:
1. Fish: Most fish – and especially salmon, halibut and tuna – boast vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness, according to an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Other B6-rich foods include chickpeas, bananas and fortified cereals.
2. Jasmine rice: When healthy sleepers ate carbohydrate-rich suppers of veggies and tomato sauce over rice, they fell asleep significantly faster at bedtime if the meal included high-glycemic-index (GI) jasmine rice rather than lower-GI long-grain rice, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
While the authors aren’t sure how it happened, they speculated that the greater amounts of insulin triggered by the high-GI meals increased the ratio of sleep-inducing tryptophan relative to other amino acids in the blood, allowing proportionately more to get into the brain.
3. Tart cherry juice: In a small study, melatonin-rich tart cherry juice was shown to aid sleep. When adults with chronic insomnia drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day, they experienced some relief in the severity of their insomnia.
4. Yogurt: Dairy products including yogurt and milk boast healthy doses of calcium – and there’s research that suggests being calcium-deficient may make it difficult to fall asleep. Other calcium-rich foods to try: leafy green vegetables including kale and collards.
5. Whole grains: Bulgur, barley and other whole grains are rich in magnesium – and consuming too little magnesium may make it harder to stay asleep, reported the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Brierley Wright is a registered dietitian.