What you eat and your habits could affect your sleep

One of life’s most basic requirements is sleep. Quality sleep is required for functioning well during the day and for preventing deterioration of daytime performance. We become psychologically and physically depleted without a good-quality sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, loss of attention and sluggishness.  Make sure to find out about the underlying conditions that may be contributing to your sleeplessness and then mitigate them or try to resolve them. If your sleeplessness happens occasionally, make sure you control it as soon as possible to prevent the progression from transient to chronic sleeplessness. Follow healthy sleep hygiene practices, and consider using sleep products only when necessary. Try to identify dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes about sleep and replace them with a more adaptive substitute, this will help minimize anticipatory anxiety (performance anxiety) and arousal that can interfere with a quality sleep. Learn about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques as it is proven to be more effective than medication for the treatment of chronic and persistent sleeplessness. 

Adults require an average of eight hours of sleep per night in order to function properly. Older folks may require slightly less time. Sleep quality, or lack thereof, can be influenced by a variety of factors including lifestyle choices. So the first step for achieving a restful sleep is to examine your daily routines. 

The following recommendations are provided to help you achieve a more relaxing and restful sleep:

Follow sleep hygiene practices:

Personal habits: Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. Avoid smoking near bedtime, or if you happen to wake up at night. Avoid heavy, spicy or sugary foods 4–6 hours before bedtime. Exercise daily, but not within 2 hours of bedtime.

Sleeping environment: Use comfortable bedding and adjust the room temperature that is comfortable for you and make sure the room is well ventilated. Cut out all distracting noise. Keep light-emitting devices in another room.

Getting ready for bed: Try a light snack before bed such as warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan (such as bananas) or foods that contain procyanidin B-2 (such as tart cherry juice). Try relaxation techniques before bed. Leave your worries behind, don’t take them to your bed. Follow a pre-sleep ritual such as reading a few pages or a warm bath. Use your favorite sleeping position.

Follow stimulus-control approaches; Go to bed only when you are really tired. Avoid napping during the day. Do not watch TV, eat or read in bed. Get up at the same time in the morning regardless of your sleep duration. Remove light-emitting devices from your bedrooms such as cell phones, tablets and game consoles. If unable to sleep after about 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room to read in a dimly lit environment, but don’t watch TV and don’t use a computer screen, as the light emitted from these devices may have an arousing effect. Return to bed as soon as you feel sleepy.

Follow relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques may improve the quality of your sleep (latency time and sleep maintenance). The premise is that physical relaxation will help you achieve mental relaxation. The technique starts with tightening and relaxing muscles in a specific order. Biofeedback is another method in which you learn to achieve slow brain wave activity. Learn to use imagery relaxation techniques in which you learn to substitute pleasant, calm, and peaceful thoughts for unpleasant ones in order to reduce worry and stress.

Follow sleep restriction (deprivation): Sleep restriction is a technique in which you control the amount of time spent in bed but increase the percentage of time asleep. If you stay in bed for 8 hours and sleep only 6 hours, you are recommended to decrease the time in bed to 7 hours, for example by changing your bedtime, but maintaining the same wake-up time. Sleep restriction will help you achieve a good sleep-wake cycle with more rapid sleep onset, higher quality sleep and reduced fatigue.

Follow Paradoxical Intention: You need to eliminate sleep performance anxiety; the idea is to eliminate the fear of remaining awake. In this method, while you are in the bed and the room is dark you try to remain awake as long as possible with your eyes open. Change your emphasis from falling asleep to staying awake. With this technique your performance anxiety associated with trying to fall asleep slowly disappears. You must still follow the sleep hygiene techniques and avoid activities in the bedroom that are incompatible with sleep such as watching TV or reading.

You could further combine several different techniques as mentioned here to achieve better quality sleep.

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