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Tips For Improving Your Nighttime Sleep

Leslie kahn


A good night’s sleep, which for adults should last for 7-9 hours a night, is crucial for optimal health. Sleep deprivation has been linked to a list of physical and psychological health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 3 American adults fails to get enough sleep. It has gone so far as to declare that “Insufficient Sleep Is A Public Health Epidemic.” In this article, I will share several tips on how to improve your sleep patterns, from your surroundings to the foods you eat to medical cannabis.

Facts About American Sleep Patterns 

  • 11% of Americans reported that they do not get sufficient sleep on a nightly basis
  • 70% of Americans report that they experienced insufficient sleep at least one night a month
  • The prevalence of healthy sleep varies by demographics 
  • As we age, our sleep quality decreases

Make Sure Your Bedroom Is Optimized For Sleep

  • Avoid noise
  • Lower the temperature to 60-67°F
  • Comfortable mattress and pillow
  • Safe path to the bathroom in the middle of the night
  • Electronic device-free zone, if possible. At the very least, turn off all computers, TVs and smartphones 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid looking at your clock or even better, eliminate all clocks. If you need to wake up at a certain time in the morning, set your alarm on your smartphone.

Develop a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Here are some suggestions:

  • Take 5 Deep Breaths
  • Tune Into Your Senses; such as how warm and cozy you feel, how nice the sheets feel, how relaxed your body is. This stops you from focusing on stressful thoughts that keep you from falling asleep.
  • Tense & Relax, starting with your toes and move up to the different body parts until you get to your head and face. Tense each area for a count of 10 and relax for a count of 10.
  • Mindfulness
  • Guided Imagery
  • Reading a good book

Follow A Strict Sleep Regime 
Go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. This strict regime is highly recommended for those who have sleep problems. 

Exposure To Sunlight 
Make sure that you get outside during the hours of sunlight, particularly first thing in the morning.. This will increase the release of serotonin which is instrumental in the production of melatonin, the natural hormone which puts you to sleep and keeps you asleep at night. Morning sunlight also boosts your vitamin D production.

Physical Exercise 
Engaging in physical activity on a daily basis will tire you out. However, it is important to exercise relatively early in the day so that you are not wound up. Your body needs several hours to recover and to relax.

Avoid Napping During The Day
A study with 440 college students who napped at least 3 times a week for more than two hours, late in the early evening, (6-9pm) experienced the worst quality of sleep.

Another study with older adults who napped on a regular basis were more likely to be overweight, be more depressed, exercised less and had worse quality of sleep than those who rarely napped.

Eating Before Bed
Studies suggest that eating a high-fat/low-carb meal encourages a deeper and more restful sleep than a high-carb/low-fat meal. 
While a high-carb diet can put you to sleep more quickly, it leads to poor quality sleep. If you eat a high-carb meal, eat it 4 hours before you go to bed so that digestion is completed.

Foods That Promote Sleep

  • Turkey which is high in tryptophan
  • Almonds which are high in calcium and magnesium
  • Fatty fish such as tuna, trout and sardines, high in omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which are anti-inflammatory, and vitamin D. Together they promote better sleep quality as serotonin enhancers.
  • Kiwis
  • White Rice

Sleep Inducing Nighttime Snack Recipes

  • Yogurt Parfait: Yogurt, cherries, almonds and a drop or two of honey
  • Mozzarella Cheese Sticks and Pumpkin Seeds
  • Fruit Smoothie; Yogurt or Kefir and the fruit of your choice
  • Cottage Cheese with cinnamon, raisins and bit of sugar

Herbal Remedies and Nutritional Supplements 

  • Chamomile Tea
  • Valerian Root
  • Kava
  • Melatonin
  • Calcium and Magnesium
  • Theanine

Sleep Aids

  • Ear Plugs
  • Weighted Blanket
  • Pulsating Light and Sound Devices
  • Sleep Masks 
  • Essential Oils in a Diffuser
  • Fans 
  • Magnetic Field Therapy

Try To Stay Awake
Known as “paradoxical intention,” by trying to stay awake instead of perseverating about not being able to fall asleep, you actually end up falling asleep more quickly.

What To Do If You Can’t Fall Asleep
If you are still tossing and turning an hour after you have turned off the lights and you are also getting anxious about not sleeping, get up and go into another room. Avoid electronics and do something relaxing, like reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle. Avoid doing any activity that you associate with anxiety about sleeping.

Yes, You Can Sleep Too Much
If you sleep more than 10 hours a night on a regular basis you are increasing your risk for the following:

  • Obesity
  • Headaches
  • Back Pain
  • Heart Disease
  • Metabolic Imbalance; also sleeping less than 6 hours a night

Medical Cannabis
There is currently a big trend away from prescription sleep medications in favor of medical cannabis. In fact, many patients are reporting improved sleep even when they are using medical cannabis for other medical conditions. Cannabis has been found to relieve pain and other symptoms which are often the underlying causes of sleep problems. Here is a link to an article that I wrote about medical cannabis and sleep.

Sweet dreams to you all!

Sources:
tuck.com, The Importance of Morning Sunlight for Better Sleep, Amelia 
Wilson, Dec. 16, 2018
marijuanadoctors.com, Replacing Sleep Medicine with Medical Marijuana, Nov. 24, 2017
healthline.com, 17 Proven Tips To Sleep Better At Night 
amerisleep.com, End Sleepless Nights With These Natural Insomnia Remedies, MaryGrace Taylor, Sept 30, 2019
healthline.com, 20 Simple Tips That Help You Fall Asleep Quickly, Arlene Semeco, 10/30/17
healthline.com, The 9 Best Foods To Eat Before Bed, Brianna Elliott, Oct. 23, 2017
sleepfoundation.org