Keep a regular bedtime schedule, including weekends
Time of day serves as a powerful cue to your body clock that it is time to sleep and awaken. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and it will be easier and easier to fall asleep. However tempting it may be, try not to break this routine on weekends when you may want to stay up much later or sleep in. Your overall sleep will be better if you don’t.
Foods that help you sleep
Maybe a rich, hearty dinner, topped off with a big slice of chocolate cake might seem like the perfect way to end the day, but it’s wise not to eat a large meal within two hours of bed. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods as bedtime snacks.
However, a light snack before bed, especially one which contains the amino acid tryptophan, can help promote sleep. When you pair tryptophan-containing foods with carbohydrates, it helps calm the brain and allow you to sleep better. For even better sleep, add some calcium to your dinner or nighttime snack. Calcium helps the brain use and process tryptophan. On the other hand, you might want to avoid eating too much protein before bedtime - protein-rich foods contain tyrosine, an amino acid that stimulates brain activity. Experiment with your food habits to determine your optimum evening meals and snacks.
- Some bedtime snacks to help you sleep:
- Glass of warm milk and half a turkey or peanut butter sandwich
- Whole-grain, low-sugar cereal or granola with low-fat milk or yogurt
- A banana and a cup of hot chamomile tea
Foods that can interfere with sleep
Some food and drinks that can interfere with your sleep, including:
- Too much food, especially fatty, rich food. These take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Spicy or acidic foods in the evening can cause stomach trouble and heartburn, which worsens as you are laying down.
- Too much liquid. Drinking lots of fluid may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
- Alcohol. Although it may initially make you feel sleepy, alcohol can interfere with sleep and cause frequent awakenings. Also some people are also sensitive to tyrosine, found in certain red wines.
- Caffeine. Avoid food and drinks that contain caffeine, and that doesn’t just mean coffee. Hidden sources of caffeine include chocolate, caffeinated sodas, and teas.
If you suspect a food or drink is keeping you up, try eliminating it for a few days to see if sleep improves.
Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
A consistent, relaxing routine before bed sends a signal to your brain that it is time to wind down, making it easier to fall asleep. Start by keeping a consistent bedtime as much as possible. Then, think about what relaxes you. It might be a warm bath, soft music or some quiet reading. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, visualization or muscle relaxation not only tell your body it is time for sleep but also help relieve anxiety. Avoid bright light or activities which cause stress and anxiety.
Ideas to help prepare for sleep
- Reading a light, entertaining book or magazine
- Listening to soft music or radio broadcast
- A light bedtime snack or a glass of warm milk
- Hobbies such as knitting or jigsaw puzzles
- Listening to books on tape
Worry, Anxiety and Sleep
With busy schedules and family lives, it’s hard to leave the worries of daily life behind when it is time to sleep. Worrying and anxiety trigger the “fight or flight” mechanism in the body, releasing chemicals that prepare us to be alert and ready for action. That not only makes it difficult to fall asleep, but can wake you up frequently in the night as well. Stop stress and worry from disrupting your rest by:
- Making the time before sleep a time of peace and quiet. As much as possible, avoid things that may trigger worry or anxiety before bed, like upsetting news or gory television shows.
- Quiet your mind. There are many things you can do to help your brain wind down and prepare for sleep. Relaxation techniques set the stage for quieting the mind. Make some simple preparations for the next day, like a to-do list or laying out the next day’s clothes and shoes. Some people find jotting down a list of worries makes them more manageable.