Natural ways to promote better sleep

As we get older, sleep can become more and more elusive. The National Institutes of Health says aging may cause us to have a harder time falling asleep and that you awaken more often, so less time is spent in a deep, dreamless sleep.

What can you do? A little research never hurt.

A new book from David Grotto, a registered dietician, “The Best Things You Can Eat” (Da Capo Press, $15.99), offers several natural ways to promote better sleep, highlighting foods that can aid in better duration and quality of sleep.

Here are Grotto’s suggestions about what you can eat that promotes better sleep, as supported by research:

• TART CHERRY JUICE: Research suggests this fruit is one of the top foods that may be beneficial in improving sleep quality and duration, due to its high melatonin content. In particular, one study found that healthy adults experienced improved sleep time and a 5-percent to 6-percent increase in overall sleep efficiency after drinking two servings of tart cherry juice for a week.

• CHICKEN: Chicken rules the roost when it comes to tryptophan content. Tryptophan helps reduce serotonin, which in turn makes us feel more relaxed and sleepy.

• SALMON: An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can help bolster proper levels of melatonin and its function.

• PUMPKIN SEEDS: These seeds are rich in magnesium and tryptophan. Low magnesium levels have been with disrupting a good night’s sleep.

• LETTUCE: The natural oil that occurs in lettuce has been used in folk medicine as an aid to relaxation and inducing sleep.

• MILK: The folk remedy of a warm glass of milk still rings true. The nutrients in milk, specifically calcium and tryptophan, are known to induce sleep.

• WALNUTS: A number of nutrients, including folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats and vitamin E are packed into these nuts, all of which support a relaxed and healthy nervous system. Try mixing a handful of walnuts and dried cherries for a bedtime snack.

Grotto also mentions a few things that may be preventing you from catching the Z’s you so desperately want and need:

• STAYING UP LATE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO: Skipping out on sleep can cause you to eat more and feel hungrier, and decreases satiety cues. Another reason to get the recommend amount of sleep every night.

• EATING LARGE: Eating a large meal after not sleeping well can increase grogginess.

• BEING OVERWEIGHT: A randomized study found those who cut calories and lost weight had vast improvements in obstructive sleep apnea.

• COUCH POTATO: A simple walking routine may be enough to bolster better sleep by better management of weight and producing more of the sleep-promoting hormone serotonin.