Eliminate Light Sources
Your body has a very natural reaction to light, which essentially signals the brain to be awake. No wonder it’s much easier to wake up on a bright and sunny morning as opposed to a dark and gloomy one. The same principle applies at bed time. If you want to ensure a better sleep, try to avoid exposure to iPhones, iPods, laptops, computers, TV and any other electronics at least an hour or so before going to bed. The glowing light from such devices can delay the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. The darker your room, the better!
Avoid Alcohol Before Bed Time
You may think that a glass of wine or another alcoholic beverage can help you to unwind at the end of a long day. While that could be true and it may initially help you to fall asleep, alcohol can on the other hand, have a negative effect on the overall quality of your sleep. Once its effects wear out it can actually cause more frequent awakenings during the night, and result in a less restful sleep. So if you experience sleeping problems and you tend to drink alcohol in the evenings, try to avoid this habit and see for yourself the improvements that it could bring to the quality of your sleep.
Avoid Eating Large Meals & Drinking Liquids at least 2 Hours Before Bed Time
Allow time for digestion before going to sleep, especially if you have digestive or other stomach problems (e.g acid reflux) as laying down after a meal can result in heartburn and gas, which would create further discomfort. It’s also important to watch your portion size and to go for lighter meals. Similarly to alcohol, food can also make you feel drowsy, but it can be equally bad for the quality of your sleep. If you are feeling full try going for a walk or do a few light exercises to aid and speed up the digestion process.
Avoid drinking too many liquids near bed time as this can disturb your sleep, caused by frequent visits to the toilet in the middle of the night.
Exercising is a fantastic way to not only release stored energy but also any tension that might have been building up in the muscles over the day, due to stress or other causes. It leads to the production of endorphins which can lift your mood and increase metabolism. Put your running shoes and go outside into the fresh air for a jog or just for a 30 minute brisk walk. There are many forms of exercise so pick a favourite (or more) and aim to do at least an hour or so of physical exercise each day.
Need another reason to quit this bad habit? Nicotine found in cigarettes is a stimulant and a study has shown that it has a negative effect on sleeping by decreasing sleeping time. Smokers are also more likely to have difficulties falling asleep. If you are a smoker, aim to gradually decrease the amount of cigarettes smoked per day and avoid smoking at least a few hours before bed time.
Say No to Caffeine After 2 PM
Sources include coffee, tea, chocolate as well as some over-the-counter cold and headache remedies therefore it’s important to be conscious of the medications that you are taking. The effect of caffeine usually lasts up to 3-5 hours, but in some people this can be as long as 8-14 hours! If you are a regular caffeine consumer and have been over a long period of time, cutting down may initially result in withdrawal symptoms. However, don’t be discouraged and try replacing the usual afternoon coffee or tea with a decaffeinated one. After a couple of days your system should adjust, making the process of falling a sleep easier.
Free Your Mind
Establish a wind-down period before going to sleep each night. Almost like a spiritual ritual. Take a warm bath or shower, put on some relaxing music, dim the lights, read a light and not strongly engaging book, meditate for a few minutes and take a few deep and long breaths. Let go of all the thoughts running through your mind. Ensure you have a small notebook by your bedside to jot down anything that you need and want to accomplish the next day, in order to completely free yourself of worries and other obligations. Even 10-15 minutes (when time is short) of such pre-sleep ritual could help to improve the quality of your sleep.
Choose Sleep-Friendly Foods in Your Dinner
- Eggs (Scrambled eggs with a whole grain toast)
- Pasta (Whole-grain pasta with tomato souce/ Parmesan cheese / tuna)
- Seafood (Grilled cod with spinach)
- Poultry with Vegetables (Chicken soup / Turkey with spinach, broccoli or artichokes)
- Chickpeas (Hummus with steamed broccoli)
Tip: Sprinkle some ground sesame seeds (source of tryptophan) over each meal for an extra sleep-inducing effect.
Go for a Bed Time Snack that is a Source of Carbohydrates in Combination with Calcium or Protein
If you are feeling a little hungry near bed time it’s OK to have a small snack. Going to bed hungry is equally bad for your sleep as going to bed on a full stomach. The ideal night-time snack combines complex carbohydrates and either a protein (which contains the amino acid tryptophan, that is converted into the hormones serotonin and melatonin), or calcium (helps the brain use tryptophan in the manufacture of these sleep-inducing hormones). Magnesium is also beneficial for sleep improvement and it has an important role in the regulation of calcium levels in the body cells so you should ensure sufficient intake of this mineral too. Though supplements are available, experts agree that consuming natural food sources of these minerals is more beneficial.
Tip: Enjoy your snack about an hour or so before bed time so that the amino acids have time to reach your brain.
Bed Time Snack Ideas:
Excellent snack as they are a great source of magnesium and potassium which can help release tension in the muscles. They are also rich in carbohydrates and contain tryptophan that further aid to calm and relax the brain.
Warm Milk with Honey
Well-known as a remedy for better sleep. And no wonder – milk and other dairy products (yoghurt, cheese) are great sources of calcium and tryptophan. If you are lactose intolerant you can replace milk with soy milk. Honey,on the other hand, causes controlled increase in the amount of insulin produced which then results in tryptophan to be released in the brain.
Oatcakes Topped with Cottage Cheese
Oatcakes are made of oatmeal which is a good source of complex carbohydrates. It also contains calcium, magnesium and potassium. Have 2 oatcakes with some cottage cheese (low-fat source of protein and calcium) spread over them for a great evening snack and a good night’s sleep after.
Handful of Pumpkin Seeds or Nuts
Nuts options include: almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, pecans or hazelnuts. They are filling and an excellent source of magnesium.
Whole Grain Toast with Peanut Butter
Have 1 piece of whole grain toast, spread with peanut butter (good source of protein).
Ditch the Wine, have grapes instead!
Scientists in Italy have found that grape skin may be a natural source of the hormone melatonin. So why not grab a handful of grapes for a better night’s sleep?
Tart Cherry Juice
Another excellent source of melatonin. Sour cherries are also rich in B vitamins, as well as magnesium and potassium. As a recent study has suggested, aim to have a glass of tart cherry juice twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening, and you may increase your sleeping time by 90 minutes!
1. Food and Sleep – http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/food-and-sleep– National Sleep Foundation
2. Sleep and Caffeine – http://www.sleepeducation.com/news/2013/08/01/sleep-and-caffeine – Sleep Education