Walk down the sleep aid aisle of your local drugstore and you’ll quickly realize that getting a good night’s rest is an issue for many people.
In fact, a recent study by the National Commission on Sleep Disorders estimates between 30 and 40 percent of Americans have insomnia in any given year. But should we need to take pills to fall asleep? Aren’t we naturally programmed to rest?
Of course the answer is yes, but in today’s crazy world of erratic work schedules, loud neighbors, thirsty kids and Netflix binging, our sleep cycles are anything but predictable. Luckily, there are a number of organic solutions to sleep deprivation, four of which are listed below. Follow these fitness and diet tips and you may never have to visit that drugstore aisle again!
Stretching tense muscles can help you relax before you go to sleep.
Stretches should be part of a late night “sleep script,” which is comprised of a series of actions that you repeat before bed each night. This script puts your body AND mind in the proper frame of mind for relaxation. Beneficial stretches include hamstring reaches, chest stretches, and torso twists.
2. Eat carbs for dinner
Say what? Eat carbs? Yes.
A recent study found that participants who ate jasmine rice fell asleep faster and harder than those who didn’t – this was due to the additional tryptophan the high-glycemic food produced. (Yes, tryptophan is largely responsible for the lovely food coma you feel after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.)
On a side-note, definitely avoid spicy foods – many of us wind up unsettled with acid reflex, and there’s no sleeping through that.
3. Don’t drink too much…
…Of anything really.
Alcohol exacerbates snoring and interrupts the sleep cycle (despite helping you initially fall asleep). Caffeine revs your heart and leaves you wide-eyed. And too much water can send you searching for the bathroom in the middle of the night.
4. Exercise – but not too close to bedtime!
The more active we are during the waking hours, typically the more restful our sleep.
The one exception to this is exercising too close to bedtime. According to Fitness.com, “The ideal time for you to exercise is in the late afternoon or early evening. You want to expend your physical energy long before it is time for your body to rest and ready itself for sleep.” Though there is some anecdotal evidence that morning exercise may also be effective.
A few bonus tips
- Your bed is for sleeping – not reading, watching television, or gorging on ice cream. Your brain needs to associate the act of sleep with the reclined position in your bedroom. Other activities confuse the purpose.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Practice relaxation exercises and meditation.
So remember, fitness and sleep have a symbiotic relationship – each improves the other. With adequate rest and a well-structured workout regimen, you’ll be getting a good night’s sleep for years to come.