Lifestyle Changes to Encourage Sleep
When trying to re-establish a sleep schedule, set your bedroom up for successful sleeping. Ways to do this include saving the bedroom for sleep only and not using it for working, reading, talking on the phone or watching TV as these type activities can decrease melatonin levels and make it harder to get to sleep. Some people sleep better in a quiet environment and others do better with some type of soft routine noise like a fan or soft music. Make the room as dark as possible with light blocking curtains. You can also train your body to know when it is sleep time by establishing a bedtime routine. Find what is a relaxing activity for you such as reading, meditation, or a warm bath and do the activity before going to bed for sleep each night. Exercise done on a regular basis can help with sleep too as long as it's not done within 3 hours of bedtime. Avoid caffeine before bed and for some people taking a nap in the afternoon will interfere with being able to sleep at night. A little experimenting with all these different tips will help you find which of these work for you and which you should avoid.
Diet Changes to Encourage Sleep
When re-establishing your sleep cycle, there are dietary changes that can also help. According to Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, some foods aid sleep and other foods make it harder to wind down. There are foods that trigger the release of brain chemicals that make us drowsy and others, such as caffeine, that are stimulating. If you regularly drink a lot of coffee, tea, or soda with caffeine or take medications or eat lots of chocolate with caffeine this could be interfering with your ability to fall asleep at night as this stimulates the central nervous system. If this sounds like you then start cutting down on the amount of caffeine you have each day, but be careful not to just stop the caffeine completely all at once as caffeine can be addictive and stopping can lead to withdrawal. Many people believe that having alcohol before bed helps them sleep, but it doesn't help with getting good quality sleep. The alcohol is soon metabolized and studies show it actually interferes with the sleep cycle by you waking up throughout the night. Eating spicy foods can also keep you awake at night. Not only are they likely to cause heartburn, but studies have shown that spicy food can interfere with getting to sleep and with the quality of sleep you experience. Dr. Rosenberg also cautions against eating protein foods before bedtime or adding a carb food to the protein so that your body is able to focus on sleep rather than digestion.
Now that we know some of the foods to avoid for better sleep, let's take a look at foods that will promote sleep. According to New York City registered dietician Keri Gans, cherries have melatonin which is difficult to get from most natural foods. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that tells the body when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in foods like milk and turkey and is a precursor to serotonin, the brain chemical that helps us relax and become drowsy. Complex carbohydrates, such as wheat, barley, or quinoa are sleep helping foods and make cereal with milk a good choice for a bedtime snack. Add some banana to that recipe to get some extra magnesium and potassium which help muscles relax. Bifidobacterium, or bifidus, one of the friendly bacteria in the large intestine, helps with digestion, but also helps in producing the calming and soothing B-vitamins that can help you relax and wind down at night. Bifidus plays a key role in immunity during a child's first two years of life and is present in mother's milk as well as in the birth canal during birth. On a mental-emotional level, bifidus is linked with feelings of self-esteem, as well as feeling supported and nurtured in life. All of these factors combined make bifidus a perfect natural solution for those who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and a high quality bifidus supplement can help you be sure you have enough of this probiotic working for you.
If you find yourself dragging due to not enough sleep, reboot your sleep cycle with some of the lifestyle change and dietary change tips listed here. Establishing an environment and routine to support good quality sleep, avoiding stimulant food and drink before bed, having a snack that will support good sleep and taking some bifidus before bedtime are all ways you can try to get your body back on track and get your much needed Zz's.
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