Trouble falling asleep at night? Or do you snap awake at 2 a.m. and watch anxiously as minutes slip away on the clock? Six out of 10 Americans have difficulty sleeping a few nights a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While chronic sleep disorders may require a physician’s or mental health professional’s care, you may be able to avoid the occasional restless night with a few nutritional tricks.
1. Eat a bedtime snack. If your pattern is to wake up in the middle of the night, your blood sugar may be low. Try a protein- and fiber-rich snack that will get you through the night, like an apple or pear with nut butter. Or substitute a slice of whole-grain bread for the fruit – whole grains are high in magnesium, a naturally relaxing mineral.
2. Go nuts. Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and cashews are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps encourage calm and restfulness. Since these tasty nuts are also high in fat and calories, keep your serving to 1/4 cup, and skip the salted and flavor-added varieties.
3. Boost your calcium. In a study published in the “European Neurology Journal,” researchers linked a lack of REM, or deep, sleep to a calcium deficiency – suggesting there might be something to the old trick of a glass of warm milk before bed. If milk doesn’t appeal, try some plain yogurt with berries and nuts. If you take a daily calcium-magnesium supplement, consider having it before bed.
4. Brew a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile, lemon balm, valerian root and passionflower are famous for their relaxing properties. Sip a cup before bed to help ease you gently into sleep.