What could you possibly have in common with Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Cary Grant, and Marilyn Monroe? If you toss and turn during the night, rather than sleep like a baby, you might be bedfellows with these famous insomniacs. So you’re not alone. 95% of adults experience some form of insomnia during their lives.
Many people assume that insomnia refers only to chronic sleeplessness. They’re wrong. Insomnia is any sleep problem, from occasional difficulties falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night, to awakening too early or sleeping too lightly. While insomnia is a complex issue with numerous causes, sometimes the answer to your sleep problems might start at the dining table, not in the bedroom.
What can you do before bed to sleep better?
- What and how much you ate for dinner could be at the root of your insomnia. Big dinners make you temporarily drowsy, but they also prolong digestive action, which keeps you awake. Instead, try eating your biggest meals before mid-afternoon and eat a light evening meal of 500 calories or less. Include some chicken, extra-lean meat, or fish at dinner to help curb middle-of-the-night snack attacks.
- The evening snack might be the best alternative to sleeping pills. A high-carbohydrate snack, such as crackers and fruit or toast and jam, triggers the release of a brain chemical called serotonin that aids sleep. According to preliminary studies, a light carbohydrate-rich snack before bedtime may not influence how fast you fall asleep, but it may help some people sleep longer and more soundly. This is not a license to binge. You only need about 100 calories of an all-carb snack to get the serotonin effect. Any more than that and you are overeating.
- Solving tensions and anxieties before bed can eliminate sleep problems.
- A major difference between good sleepers and poor sleepers is not what they do at bedtime, but what they did all day. Good sleepers exercise and use every opportunity to move. Physical activity helps a person cope with daily stress and tires the body so it is ready to sleep at night.
- In short, sleeping pills are a temporary fix, while a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes could do wonders for your snooze control.
What should you never do?
- Watch out for caffeine. Not only a mid-day cup of coffee or tea, but even a glass of cola or a chocolate doughnut contains enough caffeine to keep some people up at night. Caffeine can linger in the system for up to 15 hours, revving your nervous system and interfering with sleep. If you are a coffee drinker troubled by sleep problems, try eliminating caffeine. If you feel and sleep better after two weeks of being caffeine-free, then avoid caffeine permanently. You can try adding back one or two cups after the two-week trial, but cut back if insomnia reappears.
- A nightcap may make you sleepy at first, but you’ll sleep less soundly and wake up more tired as a result. Alcohol and other depressants suppress a phase of sleeping called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) where most of your dreaming occurs. Less REM is associated with more night awakenings and restless sleep. One glass of wine with dinner probably won’t hurt; however, avoid drinking any alcohol within two hours of bedtime and never mix alcohol with sleeping pills!
- Spicy or gas-forming foods also might be contributing to your sleep problems. Dishes seasoned with garlic, chilies, cayenne, or other hot spices can cause nagging heartburn or indigestion, while the flavor-enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate) causes vivid dreaming and restless sleep in some people. Gas-forming foods or eating too fast cause abdominal discomfort, which in turn interferes with sound sleep. Try avoiding spicy foods at dinner time. Limit your intake of gas-forming foods to the morning hours and thoroughly chew food to avoid gulping air.
If you wake up in the middle of the night what’s the best way to fall back asleep?
Some people wake up in the middle of the night and want to eat. These mid-night snack attacks may be triggered by hunger or they may just be habit. In either case, your best bet is to break the cycle. Often these night-time eaters have eaten too few calories during the day. Night eating is reduced by 50 percent or more in some people when they increase their daytime food intake. In addition, stop rewarding your stomach by feeding it every time it wakes you up. Instead, read a book, drink a glass of water, or ignore the craving. It takes up to two weeks to break a mid-night snack habit.
How do supplements help with getting a better night’s sleep?
Vitamins and supplements can be an option for supporting sleep and helping you to stay asleep, but every person’s body is different. It’s important to look for a personalized approach to your nutrition program and be mindful of the time of day you’re taking your supplements. For instance, you don’t want to take an energy-inducing supplement right before bed. If you’re looking for a personalized vitamin program, I suggest taking Persona Nutrition’s free 3-minute online assessment. Persona offers more than 86 high-quality vitamins and supplements, including its Sound Slumber program, which features a combination of three supplements that are used in rotation to optimize sleep patterns.
Subscribers who report needing sleep support will receive melatonin and Persona’s Herbal Rest formula, which combines magnesium, hops flower extract, and L-theanine to help the body relax. The supplements are sent in a rotating combination, keeping the body’s own ability to make melatonin in check.