The Internet is chock full of tricks and tips for problem sleepers. It seems that every blogger with an audience has helpful advice on how to fall and stay asleep. Unfortunately, as is true with too much information on the Web, you simply can’t trust everything you read.
Sleep is a complicated phenomenon, and though atypical solutions may work for some, for most sleepers, there are strict rules they should follow to ensure a full and restful sleep. Before you waste another night tossing and turning due to poor counsel, learn which suggestions are good and which will leave you wide-eyed all night long.
Won’t: Eating Certain Foods
What seems to be the biggest sleeping trend of late is that certain specific foods increase a person’s ability to fall and stay asleep. Lists of these foods have swelled into the double digits, and they usually include tasty treats that are excellent for snacking. Some usual items on “foods that help you sleep” lists are:
- Whole grains
These foods should seem familiar: They are some of the healthiest foods that are inexpensive and widely available. These foods don’t contain any magical soporific ingredients; they are simply good for the body as a whole. Generally, healthy people have less trouble falling asleep, but these foods are by no means a guarantee for fast, full rest.
Will: Not Eating
Instead, those who have trouble falling and staying asleep should strongly consider avoiding food altogether for a few hours before bedtime. Consuming food (and beverages other than water) even a couple hours before sleeping causes a number of issues. Food is your main energy source, so eating refuels the mind and body to make you more awake and focused — which is the exact opposite state you want before bed.
Additionally, lying down after eating increases your risk for heartburn, as strong stomach acids can creep up the esophagus much easier while you are supine, and the burning pain will certainly disrupt your sleep. To prevent sleep disruption from food, you should avoid dining (particularly on acidic or fatty foods) for three or more hours before bed.
Won’t: Using Special Scents or Sounds
It seems that scientists are still unlocking the secrets of the senses, which is perhaps why so many trouble sleepers ascribe to the idea that relaxing scents and sounds will send them dozing in seconds. Indeed, the brain develops powerful connections using information from the nose and ears, but that means a sleeper’s ability to relax using certain smells and noises depends entirely on his/her past encounters with the sensations.
For example, for travelers who prefer to relax on beaches, the sound of lapping waves may be soporific; however, avid surfers and water sport enthusiasts may feel exhilarated by the noise. Aromatherapy and sound therapy may work for some, but they certainly aren’t a cure-all for sleep issues.
Will: Sleeping on the Right Bed
Instead, the key to drifting off quickly and deeply is sleeping on the right bed for your body type. Smaller people typically need softer cushions that yield to their lightweight frames, while larger individuals require the support of firmer mattresses. This disparity is why the popular number bed is so common among married or cohabiting couples, who share a bed despite their differing bed needs. Most experts suggest buying a new mattress every seven years to sleep on the most comfortable and secure bed possible.
Won’t: Avoiding Naps
Most trouble sleepers believe that if they exhaust their minds and bodies, they will be so tired at bedtime that they will immediately slip into sleep. In this line of reasoning, naps are strictly forbidden. Unfortunately, all sleepers are accomplishing with this misguided remedy is ensuring their discomfort and decreased productivity throughout the day.
The time since the last rest does factor slightly into a person’s drowsiness and ability to fall asleep, but the circadian rhythm is far more responsible for fast, efficient rest. Feelings of sleepiness ebb and flow throughout the day due to the rhythm, and trouble sleepers whose rhythm is off-beat will likely feel wide-awake before bedtime no matter how many hours they’ve been awake.
Will: Setting a Sleep Schedule
Instead, you should establish a strict sleeping routine and stick to it. Your routine should encompass both falling asleep and waking up, and it should include strict bedtimes and wake-up times. Additionally, you can create a pattern of activities to prepare your body for sleep (or wakefulness) like showering, brushing teeth, reading, and meditating. With this regular sequence, your mind and body will start to recognize the signs of impending sleep, and you will eventually fall asleep much faster. You may even be able to incorporate naps into your sleep schedule — as long as they are shorter than 90 minutes and never fall after 4 p.m.