Changing the Way You Sleep

Updated: Aug 17

Trouble sleeping is quite common and sometimes resolvable with a few healthy lifestyle changes. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, your diet and other day to day habits might be to blame. Sleep is the key to productivity, immunity, and quality of life. Below you will find tools to help support a good night's sleep, and quality of life.


Your Day to Day Life


Taking the time to review and change your routine can improve your sleep, and ultimately improve your overall well being.


Do You Have a Regular Schedule?


A regular schedule can help re-calibrate your circadian rhythm. It is incredibly helpful to slumber and rise at the same time each day. Circadian rhythm is a naturally occurring process in the body, and when functioning properly, results in waking and tiring around the same time each day. A consistent sleep schedule and supportive habits keep you on track and can improve your day to day life.


Melatonin is a chemical produced by the pineal gland in your brain and helps to regulate your sleep wake cycle. Melatonin production is encouraged by dark making it important to turn out the lights (including electronics) in your bedroom. Melatonin production is also encouraged by a consistent sleep schedule.


Napping is to be considered here. While it is true, sometimes you just need a nap, it is important to consider when you are napping, and for how long. Napping within 8 hours of bedtime can affect the quality of your sleep and napping for more than 30 minutes can also affect your circadian rhythm.


Your Exercise Routine


Your exercise routine also affects the quality of your rest. Carving out time early in the day for exercise can help you rest better at night. Your will is also likely more abundant earlier in the day, versus closer to the end of the day. It is important to avoid working out within two hours of bedtime. Finishing your workout at least two hours before bed allows your nervous system, your heart rate and your body temperature to settle in time for you to rest well.


What is Your Bedtime Routine?


In our age of technology, it can be challenging to turn off your electronics before bed, but studies show that screen time before bed does not encourage a good night’s sleep, Screen time should be limited to two hours before bed, and your bedroom should be dark when it is time to slumber.


If television has been a part of your nightly routine for an extended period of time it is important to create a new nighttime routine to help calm you. You might start to spend time before bed reading, drinking tea, listening to music or writing in your journal. There are not many benefits to just laying in bed so filling your time with positive routines can help to ease your mind and bring your parasympathetic nervous system back to a state of rest and digest.


You Sleep How You Eat


Your sleep patterns often reflect your eating habits. When and what you eat can make or break the quality of your rest.


What NOT to Eat Before Bed


Caffeine is one culprit at the forefront of a poor night's rest. A cup of coffee early in the morning usually does not affect your sleeping patterns but relying on caffeinated beverages to keep you going during the day can result in a poor night’s rest.


Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all stimulants and should always be avoided two hours before bedtime.


If you suffer from heartburn, it is also important to avoid foods that cause heartburn. Trying to go to sleep with heartburn can be quite miserable and just isn't worth it.


The Best Bedtime Snacks


There are some foods that are great before bed snacks and can encourage a better night’s rest.


Complex carbs like whole grains including popcorn, oatmeal, or whole wheat crackers with nut butter are great before bed snacks.


Almonds and walnuts do not only include good fats but contain melatonin. If you love fruit, cherries also contain melatonin and can help regulate your sleep wake cycle.


If you love tea, or are looking for a tea to add to your bedtime routine you might try chamomile, ginger, or peppermint to ease tension. Herbal teas are caffeine free while other teas should be avoided before bed.


Your Body with No Rest


According to the CDC, more than 35% of U.S. adults are getting insufficient sleep (which the CDC defines as less than seven hours). And almost 12% of Americans are getting less than five hours a night.


Too little sleep increases your risk for chronic disease, obesity, and overall mortality risk. The amount of sleep you need depends on a variety of factors. Adequate sleep contributes largely to your overall health and well-being.


The NSF sleep guidelines were developed by an independent team, which performed a systematic review of the available medical literature. A panel of 12 medical organizations and six experts then reviewed the findings and created these age-specific recommendations:


Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours (with naps)

Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours (with naps)

Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours (with naps)

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours (with naps)

School-age (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours

Teenagers (14 to 18 years): 8 to 10 hours

Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours

Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours

Older adults (65-plus years): 7 to 8 hours


Considering the adequate amount of sleep differs significantly from person to person it is incredibly important to find your sweet spot. All of the recommendations above are worth a try, if your struggle with sleep persists it is time to schedule a visit with your doctor.

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© 2020 by Markesha Miller, Ph.D.