How to Sleep Better – Part II

A few weeks back I posted four tips on how to sleep better.  Then, I read an article in the NY Times outlining some of the terrible side effects of not enough sleep, including impaired memory, poor emotional stability, slower metabolism (aka weight gain!), and reduced immune function, so decided that today’s Nutrition Tip Tuesday should be on four more tips on how to sleep better!

1)      Sleep in complete darkness

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the body that naturally causes us to get drowsy.  When it is dark, the body produces more melatonin.  Melatonin is inhibited by light, which is why the body naturally wakes up in the morning to light.  This is an especially important factor for those who are older, as the older one is, the less melatonin the body naturally produces.

2)      Don’t exercise within 2 hours of bedtime

Moderate to extreme exercise causes a rise in circulating cortisol levels.  Regularly, cortisol levels naturally spike in the morning and gradually decrease over time so that they are low by bed time.   The increased cortisol levels means it will take a couple hours longer to properly fall asleep.

3)      Don’t eat right before bed

Not only is this a tip for weight-loss, improved digestion and less bloating the next day, it also improves sleep.  Eating right before bed means the body spends its sleep digesting, rather than being in a deep stage of sleep.  This is especially true of spicy foods, and while it’s a bit unclear why, a small study did show that spicy foods did disrupt sleep.

4)      Avoid technology before bed

Similar to not sleeping in complete darkness, think about how bright all the technology like our iPhones, iPads, iPods and iMacs are.  And often, they are right near our face.  These devices release something called ‘blue light’, which tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime and therefore time to be awake.  Try to limit technology use to one hour before bed.  Kick it old school with a good ol’ fashioned book and you’ll be asleep before you can turn the page!

What other techniques do you find useful to sleep better?

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