Improve Your Snooze: Sleep Inducers Vs. Sleep Sappers
"Can eating a whole-wheat peanut butter cracker or sipping tart cherry juice help us sleep? Either is certainly worth a try, because most of us aren’t getting enough shut-eye. According to the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, 64 percent of America’s adults frequently experience sleep problems; nearly half wake up at least once during the night. This deficit of restorative rest can affect our health.
“Lack of sleep can affect the immune system,” says Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center and an officer of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Studies show that people that don’t get a good night’s sleep or don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold.”
A concept called sleep hygiene refers to good health practices that promote sleep. For example: Is the room dark or quiet enough? Is the mattress comfortable? Have we allowed sufficient time to wind down after daily activities to become relaxed? What we eat or drink also can have a profound effect on getting a good night’s rest.
Physicians, naturopaths and nutritionists generally agree that these key factors delay or disrupt sleep.
Food and drink. According to Jamie Corroon, a naturopathic physician with Seattle’s Bastyr University, eating or drinking too much during the day may make us less comfortable when settling down to sleep. Also, spicy foods may cause heartburn, which can lead to difficulty falling asleep and discomfort during the night.
Caffeine. “Caffeine’s stimulant effect peaks in about one hour, and then declines as the liver breaks it down. So, if you go to bed by 11 p.m., you’ll have to stop your caffeine intake by 2 or 3 p.m. to avoid insomnia,” advises bestselling author Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in New York City. She also cautions about energy drinks that incorporate herbal caffeine that may include guarana seeds, kola nuts and yerba mate leaves.