A staggering 60 percent of women over 50 struggle with fitful sleep, and soaring temperatures make it even harder to reach dreamland. The fix: Our experts share how to get the restorative Zzzs you need.
Bite into watermelon.
The unofficial fruit of summer is a delicious sleep aid, reveals dietitian Karman Meyer, RD, LDN. “It contains vitamin B6, central to nerve function, helping you unwind before bed,” she says.
To reap the dreamy benefits, Meyer recommends noshing on two cups of diced watermelon daily. “This serving size has 340 milligrams of potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramping and promote water balance, leading to better sleep as the mercury rises.”
Sip tart cherry juice.
“Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone regulating the sleep/wake cycle,” reveals Meyer. In fact, according to one study, folks over 50 who drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for two weeks saw their sleep time increase by 84 minutes a night. Meyer suggests pouring a glass at breakfast and another at dinner to get your circadian rhythm on track.
Enjoy a lullaby parfait.
Yogurt brims with calcium, which helps promote the deep, REM sleep that helps you wake up refreshed, according to a study in the European Journal of Neurology. Meyer notes that it contains magnesium, “which slashes inflammation, easing aches that keep you awake.” Aim for about eight ounces of yogurt daily, sprinkled with melatonin-rich almonds and antioxidant-packed blueberries, whose stress-soothing benefits encourage restorative sleep.
Greet the sun.
Just a few minutes during the day will help you drift off at night. Why? When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body manufactures vitamin D, which promotes deep sleep. “People low in vitamin D tend to sleep less and experience more sleep disturbances,” says expert Susheel P. Patil, MD, Ph.D., explaining that vitamin D is vital to every cell in your body, particularly your nervous system. Plus, 15 minutes of daily sun spurs the production of that magical melatonin, helping you snooze 34 percent more soundly!
Freeze your pillow.
Sleep doc Rajkumar Dasgupta, MD, likes this summer slumber strategy: placing pillow cases in resealable bags and cooling them in the freezer before bed. In one study, people who chilled their pillowcase for 15 minutes enjoyed significantly deeper sleep than folks who put their head to warm bedding. It works because your brain needs to cool down in order to sleep, explains Dr. Dasgupta.
Unplug your brain.
Summer’s go-go-go schedules make it that much more important to unplug sleep-disturbing technology a couple of hours before bed, notes Dr. Dasgupta, who recommends adopting a soothing bedtime ritual: “A mindfulness practice, such as breathing deeply while visualizing a calming spot like the beach, dials down stress hormones that disrupt sleep,” he says. “To enhance the benefit, place two fingers on your inner wrist while you take deep breaths. As you feel your heart rate lower, your brain gets encouraging feedback that says, ‘Hey, this is working,’ helping you fall asleep even faster!”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.