Sleep is one of the most important components of overall health, but most Americans don’t even know it. In fact, it’s estimated that over one third of all American adults do not get enough sleep.
Adults need a full 7-9 hours of sleep every night for optimal health; teens need 8-10 hours.1 A hectic schedule and a fast-paced lifestyle doesn’t exactly lend itself to optimal sleep. This is where we often cut corners. What’s an extra hour of sleep when you have XYZ to do today!?
While it may seem like sleep is the best place to cut corners, it isn’t. Yes, shaving off that extra hour allows more time to take care of that seemingly endless to-do list. But skimping on sleep can take a toll on your health. During sleep, other parts of your body work hard to repair muscle damage, build new cells, restore energy, and produce important hormones needed for everything, including your mood, appetite, and more.2
Follow these 4 simple sleep better tips to get better, more restful sleep every night:
Skip the Nightcap
Many people pour a drink at the end of a long workday to relieve stress and tension. While a nightcap might seem like a good way to relax, it could be costing you the restful sleep you need to get through those long days. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation has associated drinking alcohol before bedtime with slow-wave sleep patterns (no REM), irregular circadian rhythm, trouble breathing (snoring), and bathroom interruptions.3
Twist & Turn
If counting sheep hasn’t worked for you in the past, perhaps you need to twist and turn. There are three main sleeping positions that specialists recommend: side, back, and stomach. However, there are additional positions that can help reduce the likelihood of interrupted sleep. Skip tossing and turning, and try some of these alternative positions instead:
This position is the most common alternate position, and it’s ideal for those who like to curl up with arms and legs close to the body.
Many sleepers who usually sleep on their sides like the easygoing position of the log: on the side, with arms and legs pointing downward.
This side-lying position leaves you with arms stretched out in front of the body, back straight, and legs pointing downward.
This position is ideal for those who like to lie on their bellies. With arms under the body or wrapped around a pillow, the head is gently turned to the side.
Back prone sleepers love this position. Lying on the back with arms over the head, this position usually works best for those who snore.4
Make Time for Tea
For centuries, cultures across the globe have used healing herbs to help people sleep. Today, the traditional sleeping herbs that ancient medicine men relied on are still used in many “sleepytime” teas. Studies have shown that the most effective herbs for sleep include lavender, valerian root, and German chamomile.5-7
Take a Piece of Fruit
You may already know that a healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is good for your body. But what you might not know is that there are specific foods that can help you get better sleep. These include pineapples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, barley, rice, and oats.
One fruit, in particular, is believed to be exceptionally good at helping people sleep. Researchers found that tart cherry juice derived from dark red cherries, a potent source of proanthocyanidins, aided sleep. Why? These phytochemicals, responsible for the dark red color of cherry skin, contain high levels of melatonin – the hormone needed by the brain to regulate sleep/wake cycles, also known as the circadian rhythm.
Results of the study showed that participants experienced better sleep duration and quality when they drank the tart cherry juice concentrate.8
If you are having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting a full night of restful ZZZs, follow these five simple tips for better sleep. The power of a good night’s sleep boosts your energy, mood, and feelings of vitality. So, go ahead and drift off to dreamland.
- National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Sleepfoundationorg. 2017. Accessed January 19, 2017.
- What Happens When You Sleep? National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep
- How Alcohol Affects the Quality—And Quantity—Of Sleep. Sleepfoundationorg. 2017.Accessed January 19, 2017.
- Sleep Positions│ Healthy Sleeping Positions from Better Sleep Council. Bettersleeporg. 2017. Accessed January 19, 2017.
- Peir Hossein Koulivand, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri.Lavender and the Nervous System. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 681304. 2013 Mar 14.
- Leathwood PD, Chauffard F. Aqueous extract of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis L.) improves sleep quality in man. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1982 Jul;17(1):65-71.
- Janmejai K Srivastava, Eswar Shankar. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901. 2011 Feb 1.
- Howatson G, Bell PG. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16. Epub 2011 Oct 30.