5 strategies for getting better quality sleep

October 9, 2015

There are a lot of myths about sleep and what affects a person's ability to get a good night's slumber. Here are some things known to affect sleep and 5 strategies to help you get better rest.

5 strategies for getting better quality sleep

1. Know that age is important

Sleep researchers have discredited the common myth that older people require less sleep.

  • The amount of sleep that an adult needs remains fairly constant. With advancing age, however, the nature of sleep changes and the incidence of sleep disorders rises.
  • The degree of time spent in the deeper stages of sleep often lessens with age.
  • An older person is likely to awaken more frequently during the night.

2. Avoid alcohol

Small amounts of alcohol can help you fall asleep. However, as the body metabolizes the alcohol, sleep may become fragmented.

  • Alcohol can actually worsen insomnia and also impair rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the time when the body is in its restorative phase.
  • It can also dehydrate you, leaving you tired the next day.

3. Skip the caffeine

Any food or beverage that contains caffeine can disturb sleep, although this is not true for everyone.

  • Research has shown that older adults who suffer from insomnia report higher caffeine intakes.
  • If you're sensitive to caffeine, avoid it in the afternoon and evening.

4. Don't eat or drink late at night

A light snack at bedtime can promote sleep, but too much food can cause digestive discomfort that leads to wakefulness.

  • People who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux should avoid late, heavy meals that delay the emptying of the stomach.
  • Lying down with a full stomach encourages acids and gastric juices to flow up into the esophagus. This causes uncomfortable heartburn that makes sleep more challenging.
  • If you consume a high-fat meal in the evening or eat foods that you've found cause you indigestion and heartburn, your sleep can be disturbed and restless.
  • Drinking fluids too close to bedtime can also cause problems. Avoid fluids after dinner to reduce the need to go to the bathroom during the night.

5. Try foods with natural sleep inducers

Milk contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid and natural dietary sleep inducer.

  • Tryptophan works by increasing the amount of serotonin, a natural sedative, in the brain.
  • Carbohydrates facilitate the entry of tryptophan into the brain.
  • A turkey sandwich provides another sleep-inducing combination of tryptophan and carbohydrates.
  • A banana with milk gives you vitamin B6, which helps convert tryptophan to serotonin.

Although some chemicals that naturally occur in the body enhance sleep, and while diet also plays a part, knowing more about sleep may actually help you get more of it. Avoid late night drinks and meals, and other things that cause restless nights, and you may find yourself nodding off a lot easier.

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