If you are one of those individuals who say they can’t get a good sleep, you are not alone. Sleeplessness is a common complaint regardless of a person’s age. In fact, over 50 million people in the United States do not get enough sleep.
Studies found the link between the quality and quantity of sleep and health. A good night’s rest provides numerous health benefits like increased focus and brain function, strong immune system, enhanced skin elasticity, keeps the weight under control and keeps you happy. On the other hand, less sleep is linked to high risk of developing heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It is also believed to weaken the immune system and contributes to weight gain. Moreover, it adversely affect your mood and leaves you feeling tired all day.
Though seven hours is generally the recommended amount of sleep a person needs, there is just no magic number. As we age, we tend to need a slightly lesser amount of sleep. However, it varies per individual. One may function best with seven hours of good night’s sleep, while others may need more than seven hours to lead a productive life. Nevertheless, your battle with sleeplessness starts at the dining table and not in the bedroom. Hence, changing your diet may help improve your sleeping habits. How?
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol before Going to Bed
A cup of tea or coffee is a quick tonic that may undermine your sleep. A small amount of caffeine, such as the amount contained in chocolate doughnuts, may affect your sleep. This is especially true if you are sensitive to caffeine. Try avoiding all caffeine-containing food and beverages before going to bed. If you sleep better after a week of avoiding caffeine, then permanently avoid caffeine before going to bed. However, herbal teas like passion flower tea, Valerian tea and chamomile tea have a sedative effect, which aids sleep.
On the other hand, alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, but it decreases the quality of your sleep and you will wake up feeling tired. Alcohol, like other depressants, suppresses the REM or rapid eye movement. It is the phase of sleep where most of our dreams happen. Reduced REM means more awakenings and restless sleep. Drinking a glass of wine with dinner would probably not hurt you, but avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at least two hours before going to bed. Moreover, do not mix alcoholic beverages with sleeping pills.
Sleep-Friendly Table Tips
Big dinners may make you feel sleepy but do not be misled. The drowsiness is only temporary. Big meals also prolong digestion, which in turn affects your sleep. Hence, if you want to eat a bigger meal, eat it not later than mid-afternoon. Try eating light meals with 500 calories or less in the evening. Also, adding lean meat, chicken or fish into your dinner can help curb midnight hunger.
Another thing to keep in mind is to minimize consumption of spicy foods. These foods are also known to cause sleep problems. Meals with cayenne, chilies, garlic or other hot spices can cause indigestion and heartburn. Rush eating and gas-forming meals can also cause abdominal problems, which also interferes with your sleep. Avoid gas-forming foods and chew your food thoroughly to avoid gulping air. On the other hand, foods that helps improve sleep include tuna, peanuts, eggs, poultry, bananas, oats, milk, and yogurt. These foods contain tryptophan, which enhances sleep.
Studies have also shown that magnesium helps relax and calm the body. Magnesium deficiency can cause sleeplessness. If you are low in magnesium, try adding magnesium supplements to your diet or increase your consumption of magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains, fish, seeds, nuts and spinach to improve your quality of sleep.
Bedtime Snacks – An Alternative to Sleeping Pills
Bedtime snacks such as fruits, crackers, toast and jam are high in carbohydrates. These high-carbs snacks help trigger the brain to release serotonin, a chemical known to aid sleep. Serotonin is a brain stimulant, mood elevator, and sleep enhancer. Also, eating a bowl of cereal before bedtime stimulates the brain in releasing insulin. This natural chemical helps clear amino acids that race against the tryptophan from the blood stream. This allows more sleep-inducing amino acid to get in the brain. You can also add a glass of hot milk to your bedtime snacks. Though this protein-rich drink does not affect your serotonin levels, it helps you feel relaxed and full, which in turn aids sleep.
Curb Midnight Snacking
Midnight snack cravings are triggered by either hunger or just a habit. Either way your case is, the best way to go is break the cycle. Eat more during the day and put a stop on rewarding your tummy every time awakens you in the middle of the night. Try reading a book, ignore the craving or drink a glass of water. It may take a few weeks to break this habit. But breaking it rewards you with a good night’s sleep.
A common cause of sleeplessness is stress. Often, relieving anxieties and tensions improves sleep quality. Exercise is the one of the most effective tension relievers. Research studies show that individuals who exercise for at least 40 minutes twice a week sleep better than those who did not exercise. Exercise or any physical activity helps relieve stress and prepares the body for sleep at night. It produces endorphin in the brain which lifts your mood and increases your metabolism. However, vigorous exercise is not recommended before or near bedtime as it produces stimulant chemicals which stop the brain from relaxing.
Lastly, set your bedroom in a relaxing mood. Make sure it is not too cold or too hot. Turn off the lights and any devices that emit lights such as computers and cable boxes. If the room is dark, the brain produces more melatonin which aids sleep. Pat a few drops of lavender oil on your pillows. This can also help your body and senses relax.
In a nutshell, a few simple lifestyle and dietary changes could do wonders for a long-term fix for your sleep issues.