Sleeping is our favorite sport but given our schedules, it’s a luxury which is pretty difficult to afford. Nothing comes close to a good night’s sleep. It just doesn’t have the advantage of making you feel more active and well rested but also comes with various other benefits. Few to list are:

  • Makes you eat fewer calories
  • Improves concentration and productivity
  • Maximizes athletic performance
  • Lessens the risk of heart disease and strokes 
  • Improves the immune function

If you’re one of those who just wouldn’t stop tossing and turning in their beds at night, here are few tips:

Tip #1: Keep a consistent sleeping schedule

Having a consistent sleeping schedule is more important than we think. We often think that by going early to bed the following day would make up for the lost sleep, but the body clock’s ability to regulate healthy sleep patterns depends on consistency. The practice of having varying sleeping schedules only turns to disrupt your bodily rhythms and late-night weekends in particular can cause insomnia during the work week. 

The best way to go about this problem is by setting a routine for waking up as well as going to bed around the same time, even on weekends. This way our brain would be reminded as to when to release sleep and wake hormones, and more importantly, when not to. 

Tip #2: Give your body the right sleep signals

This might come as a surprise, but our bodies need signals to even fall asleep and waking up. The most fundamental signal is that of darkness and light. Since we live and work in artificially lit environments and so miss out on the strongest regulatory signal of all, natural sunlight, we tend to require complete darkness for sleep. Darkness produces the sleep hormone called melatonin which helps us fall asleep better and quicker. 

For the production of this hormone, you must make sure that the alarm clock read-out that glows in bright red; the charging indicator on your cell phone or PDA, the monitor on your computer, the battery indicator on the cordless phone or answering machine, the DVD clock and timer are absent from your bedroom. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of sleep hormones and therefore disturb your sleep rhythms.

Conceal or move the clock, cover all the lights of any electronic device and use dark shades or drapes on the windows if they are exposed to light. If all of that is not possible, wear an eye mask.

If you get up in the middle of the night, try keeping the light off when you go to the bathroom. Use a flashlight or night light so that you can fall asleep right after it. 

5 foods that can help you sleep better: 

1. Cherries

Cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. During the ten months of the year when cherries are out of season, dried cherries and cherry juice (especially tart cherry juice, which contains less sugar) are good substitutes. (Grapes also contain melatonin, but you need to eat more of them to get the same effect). To get the most out of cherries is to consume them an hour before bedtime. 

2. Bananas

Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium which are natural muscle relaxants. Not just that, they also carry amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin which in simple words means, more and better sleep for you. 

3. Toast

If you have trouble with sleeping, turn to your favorite carbohydrates as late night snakes. Carbohydrate-rich foods cause a spike in your blood sugar levels which is followed by the lowering of insulin. This explains the boost of energy in the first few minutes after eating cards, then a “crash” of tiredness. 

At night, this sleepiness can come in handy. Make a toast your perfect good night snack so that your brain releases the chemicals which promote relaxation and combat anxiety. 

4. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is not just your perfect breakfast meal but can also work as a great late night snack. Another complex carbohydrate, oatmeal triggers a rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oats are also rich in vitamin B6, an anti-stress vitamin, and melatonin.

5. Warm milk

Milk is another great food item which helps you sleep better. Combining milk with a carbohydrate-rich food like oatmeal, granola, or toast makes it much more effective. Like bananas, milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns to 5-HTP and releases relaxing serotonin. It’s also high in calcium and other minerals, known to have a relaxing effect.

Foods to Avoid:

1. Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is our holy grail but you got to go easy on it especially right before your bed time. Spicy foods raise your body temperature which results in greater brain activity. Not only can that lead to poor sleep but there’s also some speculation that a spicy meal before bedtime can contribute to strange dreams or nightmares. 

2. Fast Food

Foods high in fat stimulate acid production in the stomach, which can lead to nighttime heartburn. Now can you have a good night’s sleep with heartburn? The answer is a big no. Fast food is important to keep us sane but let’s just have it for lunch, maybe. 

3. Alcohol

You may fall asleep faster and more easily after happy hour, but alcohol can actually disrupt your sleep throughout the course of the night, keeping you from entering the deeper stages of sleep and leaving you tired in the morning.

4. Coffee 

No surprise here—caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, and though people’s sensitivity varies, it’s a good idea for most to skip it later in the day. Research has found that caffeine consumption even six hours before bed can disturb sleep, so avoid relying on coffee, energy drinks, and caffeinated teas and sodas to get you through the afternoon slump. And watch out for surprising sources of caffeine, like dark chocolate as well. 

It is imperative that we take care of our health and wellbeing and to do so, we need a proper night’s sleep so make sure you’re eating well and sleeping well and not forgetting to enjoy life in between. 

James Crook

James Crook is a passionate health and fitness blogger. Currently, he is working with Centra Care–Urgent Care Tampa.