- 1 Could Your Diet Be Keeping You Awake?
- 2 What Should You Eat to Help Sleep?
- 3 Does Exercise Affect Your Sleep?
- 4 Natural Treatments for Insomnia
- 5 Signs of Sleep Deprivation
- 6 Sleep and Your Health
- 7 Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
- 8 Tips on Getting Enough Sleep
- 9 Sleep: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much?
Could Your Diet Be Keeping You Awake?
The various connections between what you eat and how you sleep are gaining attention. Research is showing that what you eat or don’t eat can, in fact, affect your sleep. Here are some ideas as to how food affects your sleep, and what foods should be eaten or avoided to get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and Weight Gain
Multiple studies have shown that getting adequate, quality sleep may contribute to weight loss, and that not getting enough sleep may contribute to weight gain.
Interestingly, eating less did not help offset the weight gain associated with lack of sleep, according to a large-scale, long-term study on sleep and weight gain. This may be because lack of sleep may affect your metabolism, and when you don’t get enough sleep, you produce the stress hormone cortisol, which is said to make you feel hungry.
Eating chocolate, sugar, refined grains, or drinking caffeine during the day and into the evening can have a stimulative effect that goes well into the night. For some people, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives can disturb sleep.
In addition, experts recommend that you also avoid the following foods, particularly in the evenings and/or right before bed:
- Alcohol – Ironically, alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns and make for poor sleep quality. Its diuretic effect (particularly beer) can also disrupt sleep.
- Excessively salty foods – As the kidneys work to rid your body of the excess salt, you will probably find yourself getting up to go to the bathroom during the night.
- Tea, coffee, or cola – The caffeine these drinks contain is not only a stimulant to your nervous system; it’s been said to stimulate the kidneys, too.
- Spicy and/or greasy, fried foods – These may cause heartburn.
What Should You Eat to Help Sleep?
- Magnesium-containing foods, such as almonds, seeds, black beans, salmon, dark leafy greens and most whole grains are helpful (although if beans give you uncomfortable gas, they should probably be avoided). Magnesium is crucial to muscle and nerve function, particularly muscle relaxation.
- Whole grains and other complex carbohydrates may also promote sleep, as they are said to stimulate serotonin in the brain.
- Plain, low-fat yogurt with raw honey makes a good bedtime snack. Raw honey is actually purported to promote sleep and even weight loss, while yogurt contains calcium, which is also important to muscle relaxation. Calcium also helps with melatonin production in the body.
- Low-fat cheese can also help promote sleep. Whole grain pasta with a little Parmesan, for example, may be a good night-time meal.
Does Exercise Affect Your Sleep?
Exercise can indeed affect your sleep, and not always for the better. How, when, and where you exercise all have an impact on your sleep quality.
Can Exercise Improve Sleep?
Yes, exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. In fact, many experts point to this basic lifestyle adjustment as being key to sleep improvement. However, sources point out that how and when you exercise makes a difference in how positively and how much your exercise will affect your sleep.
Generally speaking, exercise in the mid to late afternoon is ideal. For one thing, it gets you past the sleepy time in the afternoon when taking a nap (if possible) can result in your not feeling sleepy at bedtime. Late afternoon exercise gets your body heat up and your circulation going, and as your body temperature cools, it seems to get the body ready for sleep.
If you eat dinner early, exercising after dinner may work for you – but giving your body at least four hours of cool down time is said to be best.
A vigorous workout in the evening shortly before bed means you are trying to sleep with a raised body temperature, and studies have shown that a cooling body temperature is most conducive to sleep.
If morning is the only time you have to exercise, of course that is better than no exercise at all. Because exercise is good for the body overall, all body systems from circulation to muscle tone are improved, and keeping your body systems in top shape ultimately promotes a good night’s sleep.
Exercise also relieves tension. A 2008 study pointed out the relaxing benefits of exercise and the subsequent benefits of better sleep.
What Kind of Exercise Is Best?
For the most effective sleep promotion, most experts agree that cardiovascular exercise is best. A vigorous cardio workout that lasts at least 20 minutes is sufficient to raise body temperature, get your heart pumping, and enhance circulation.
Examples of cardiovascular exercises you can do at home or nearby include:
- Walking (vigorous, fast walking)
- Jumping rope
- Bike riding
Natural Treatments for Insomnia
Insomnia can be a very difficult and frustrating problem, and it can have a significant impact on your health. Many people fear that prescription medications or over-the-counter sleep aids are the only methods available to manage insomnia, but there are several natural treatments that can help.
Why Is Insomnia a Problem?
Is it really that big a deal when you can’t get to sleep? Experts say that if it’s a chronic problem, then yes – it can be a big deal. For one thing, insomnia can be a symptom of a serious disorder known as sleep apnea. Left untreated, insomnia is implicated in many disorders, including:
* Impaired cognitive function (particularly decision making)
* Cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, heart disease)
* Stress-related disorders
* Impaired immune function
Are There Natural Options?
There are, thankfully, quite a few natural methods for dealing with insomnia. Many people find relief in herbal remedies, lifestyle adjustments, and exercise. Once you’ve checked with your health care provider about possible medical causes for your insomnia, you might try some of these natural treatments for insomnia.
1. Herbal Remedies
Herbal teas and supplements are said to be a gentle and effective way of bringing on sleep. Herbs with a reputation for promoting sleep include the following:
* Chamomile – This is a long-held remedy for sleeplessness that is exacerbated by nervousness and anxiety. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea in the evenings before bed may be all you need – but it can have a slight diuretic effect, so drinking a cup an hour or so before bed might work better. You may also find it beneficial to drink it throughout the day, hot or cold, or mixed with other beverages.
* Valerian Root – It makes an unpleasant tea, but many people have had significant success with taking valerian root capsules. Valerian is a natural sedative.
* Lemon Balm – In contrast to valerian, lemon balm tastes very good and makes a lemony tea. Like chamomile, drinking a cup in the evenings may help promote sleep. You could mix it with chamomile tea as well.
2. Lifestyle Changes
Insomnia can sometimes be managed by making adjustments to your lifestyle. Here are some ideas.
* Exercise regularly. This is one of the best ways to get your body into balance and help you relax at night.
* Cut out caffeine, even if you think you need it every day.
* If you smoke, quit – smokers tend to have more sleep problems than non-smokers, sources report.
* Cut back on sugar, artificial colors, preservatives, and artificial flavors. These substances have been implicated in hyperactivity and other mood and mental imbalances.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
Even if you think you’re getting enough sleep, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation. The symptoms of sleep deprivation are not necessarily as clear-cut as you might think; in other words, it’s not just feeling sleepy all the time that is your cue that you’re short on sleep. So how do you know? Here are some tips.
Everyone has trouble sleeping now and then. We all experience the occasional sleepless night and groggy morning. We may even go through a period when we experience these things, such as during life transitions and stresses. But when sleep deprivation may be a problem is when it is a regular occurrence, and is unrelated to circumstances.
Experts point out “sleep debt” as a way in which sleep deprivation can enter your life without you necessarily realizing it. Sleep debt is accumulated gradually, and is said to result from an hour or more of missed sleep every night for several nights. Sleep debt can get so bad that several nights of regular sleep are required to improve normal functioning.
Lack of sleep can make people very irritable, sources say. Are you snappish and impatient? Do you find yourself having little tolerance for your own mistakes and those of others? It may be lack of sleep that’s the culprit.
Increased Appetite and/or Weight Gain
Did you know that a lack of sleep may increase your appetite and lead to weight gain? Perhaps the body’s need for energy when it’s sleep-deprived is what leads to a craving for sweets, carbohydrates, or just food in general. Increased appetite may also be the result of hormones that kick in when the body is deprived of sleep.
Even without a marked increase in appetite, research has shown the sleep deprivation can result in weight gain. This also may be due to hormonal imbalances caused by too little sleep.
If you find yourself making silly mistakes on a regular basis – dropping things, forgetting dates on the calendar, messing up your schedule, and so forth – it may be your sleepy brain. Studies show that those who don’t get enough sleep have a hard time performing normal tasks that are no problem when they are getting enough sleep.
As with other mental disorders, sleep deprivation may not be a cause of depression, but rather a symptom. However, some sources do point out that depression can result from a lack of sleep. If you are feeling depressed and are having a hard time determining why, you might take a look at your sleep habits.
Sleep and Your Health
Most of us know that a good night’s sleep is healthy; but do we really take that advice seriously? Many times, we brush aside a full night’s sleep due to our busy schedules, a need for “down time” that keeps us up, or simply life’s circumstances. But a lack of sleep can result in more than just feeling tired (which is bad enough). Medical experts warn that chronic sleep deprivation can have serious effects on your health.
Here are some health problems that may result from lack of sleep.
While not all cancer risks are affected by lack of sleep, studies have indicated that breast and colon cancer risk is greatest for those who work night shifts. Apparently, the exposure to light in the night-time hours reduces the body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is a brain chemical that helps promote healthy sleep, but it may also reduce tumors and protect against cancer as well. The less you sleep, the less melatonin your body manufactures.
Statistically, heart attacks occur more often in the early morning hours. Experts believe this may have something to do with the particular way that sleep and waking affect the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that the health problems that often lead to heart disease – obesity, high blood pressure, etc. – are exacerbated by lack of sleep.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you tend to be moody and irritable, which is not good for any relationship. Also, sleep problems may lead to partners sleeping separately, or resentment on the part of one or both of the partners for the problem. This kind of tension may affect any children in the family as well.
An inability to think straight or think constructively is a problem associated with sleep deprivation. You may have trouble remembering things, too, if you are not getting enough sleep.
From automobile accidents to accidents on the job, sleep deprivation has been implicated in all sorts of accidental injury situations. The brain just does not react as quickly or efficiently when you are starved of sleep, and clumsiness and mistakes are also symptoms associated with lack of sleep (and accidents).
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder wherein you stop breathing during the night – one medical expert claimed to have seen patients who stopped breathing 100 times every hour! Most of the time, sleep apnea is of the obstructive variety, which means the throat muscles relax to the point that not enough oxygen is taken into the lungs. The sufferer then awakens to open his or her airways.
Another type of sleep apnea, called central sleep apnea, results when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles of the airways. Sometimes, sleep apnea is the result of a combination of these. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. In a sleep lab, professionals can diagnose the disorder and work toward appropriate treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
If you are concerned that you may have sleep apnea, evaluate this list to see if you may be suffering from it. If you think you are, see a medical professional as soon as you can – sleep apnea is considered a serious condition.
* Snoring – Does your partner or spouse complain about your snoring? Snoring, particularly loud snoring, is one of the primary symptoms of sleep apnea. Snoring is said to result from the vibration of the relaxed airways, particularly the soft palate.
* Daytime sleepiness – For many people, feeling sleepy in the middle of the afternoon is considered normal and nothing to worry about – and for the most part, it is. But if daytime sleepiness affects your normal functioning – if you can’t drive for half an hour or so without getting sleepy, for example, or if you have trouble focusing on tasks during the day – then sleep apnea may be the problem.
* Irritability – Even though you may not know you have sleep apnea, and you may not even feel sleepy, your pattern of interrupted sleep may result in irritability that does not seem to have any cause.
Common Treatment Options
What treatment is available for those with sleep apnea? Medically, one of the most common treatments is Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure, or CPAP. This device is a small box to which is attached a tube and a mask. You wear the mask at night, and it delivers a continuous flow of oxygen into your throat and airways, keeping them open and providing you with much-needed air.
There are also some factors associated with sleep apnea that you can eliminate from your lifestyle. Smoking, obesity, and drinking too much alcohol are all associated with sleep apnea.
Tips on Getting Enough Sleep
It’s easy to point to your schedule as the reason why you can’t get enough sleep. By the time you get a free moment it’s bedtime, and you really don’t want to go to bed just yet; you need some down time. Then you stay up too late and the cycle continues.
There are all sorts of other reasons, too, for not getting enough sleep. Maybe you have a spouse who snores, or you just have trouble sleeping once you do get to bed (insomnia). Whatever the reason, it’s important to make time and create the right environment for getting enough sleep. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Remember how your parents pestered you about bedtime? They had a point. Instead of looking at the ever-later clock each night, knowing you “really should” get to bed, set a bedtime and stick with it. Most experts agree that you should go to sleep before midnight, preferably before 11pm.
If this isn’t possible, be realistic and set a bedtime when you know you can get it, even if it’s midnight or 12:30am. Then be sure you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep.
Another note about bedtime – if it’s too early, that can cause problems too, experts note. If you find yourself fading to sleep at 7 or 8pm, you may find that you wake up in the small hours after only 5 or 6 hours’ sleep, and you can’t get back to sleep.
You may have a set-up in your bedroom that is not conducive to sleep. Here are some things to look for and adjust in your bedroom to make it more sleep-promoting.
* Dark and cool is the rule for a sleepy bedroom. Darkness is important for a proper night’s sleep – lights from neighbors’ homes, screens (including the TV or computer screen), lamps, and so forth can disturb your sleep patterns.
Cooler temperatures are said to promote sleep. A higher body temperature may actually stimulate the body and prevent sleep, but cool temperatures help promote a comfortable night’s sleep.
* Your bed is for sleeping, not working. If you’re in the habit of working on bills, office work, etc. while sitting on or in bed, you might be inadvertently training your brain to be stimulated when you are in your bed. Also, it’s harder to walk away from work worries if you literally take them to bed with you! Try to keep your work in another room, or at least away from your bed.
* Keep it quiet in your bedroom. If you have trouble in this regard, use a fan or other source of white noise at night to drown out disruptive sounds.
Do worries keep you awake? Do you have a hard time turning off your brain? Making a list may help. Write down all of those things that are bothering you or that you can’t get your mind off of, and note some practical steps you can take in the morning (or during the upcoming day or week) to work those things out.
Sleep: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much?
Is it possible to get too much sleep? Many of us wish we could get more sleep than we do; but apparently, it is possible to get too much sleep, which may have a negative impact on your health.
How Much Sleep is Normal?
At different points in your life and development, your sleep needs will vary. Generally speaking, though, healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, sources say. “Too much sleep” could therefore be defined as sleep amounts that exceed 9 or 10 hours in a 24-hour period.
Why Do Some People Sleep Too Much?
There is a condition called hypersomnia, which causes sufferers to have an almost constant need for sleep. People with hypersomnia never seem to get enough sleep, and feel groggy and sleepy all day, even if they get a normal amount of sleep.
For others, sleeping for long hours is simply something they enjoy, perhaps to catch up on the weekends after a week of little sleep.
Depression is also a condition that is associated with an increased need or desire for sleep. Sufferers of depression sometimes find it hard just to get out of bed.
Can Getting Too Much Sleep Be Harmful?
According to several studies and sources, the answer to this question is yes. Getting too much sleep may result in the following:
* Increased mortality, or earlier death than those who get normal amounts of sleep. Studies have shown that people who sleep too much die sooner than normal sleepers.
* A greater risk of stroke has been observed in those who get too much sleep.
* Too much weight and too much sleep may go hand-in-hand. Studies have also shown a correlation between those who sleep too much and those who weigh too much.
* Studies have shown that those who sleep too much are at greater risk for developing diabetes.
How Can You Know If You’re Getting Too Much Sleep?
Because sleep needs vary among individuals, it can be challenging to discern whether or you are suffering from too little or too much sleep. If you are struggling with sleepiness during the day and have trouble sleeping at night, or if you can’t seem to get up in the morning no matter how much you sleep, here are some facts and suggestions that may help.
* Keep a sleep diary, noting what time you go to sleep and what time you awaken, and how you feel during the day. Note times you feel sleepy and times you feel energetic, and look for connections.
* It’s said that humans are biologically wired to feel less alert in the middle of the afternoon and in the middle of the night, so if you find yourself sleepy at these times there may not be a problem with your sleep patterns.
* Are you overweight? If you find that you can’t keep weight off no matter how much you exercise or diet, it’s possible that too much sleep is the culprit.
* How much do you rely on caffeine?