Some people have trouble falling asleep. Others can't stay asleep. And then there are the people (um, me!) who have trouble turning life "off" 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--and 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 answer e-mails, clean your house, or complete whatever to-do item is keeping you up late.)
Here's what you can eat for a better night's sleep:
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, in 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.
Dairy products like 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 like 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.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)