Q & A: Basic Nutrition

Q & A: Basic Nutrition

Question: Dr. Chavers, I know I’m supposed to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but I can’t fall asleep. And when I get to sleep, I wake up throughout the night and have trouble getting back to snoozing. What do you recommend I do?

Insomnia is a very common problem and one that is very serious. Sleep deprivation has been shown to contribute to many chronic diseases including high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, hormone imbalances, and even Alzheimer’s disease. This question is one that I get asked a lot. Most people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or some combination of both. And the causes for each can be very different. Here are a few suggestions to help you fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer so you can wake rested and refreshed.

* Avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.

* Avoid caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2 pm; if sensitive to caffeine, avoid it completely. These items include sodas, tea, coffee, and chocolate. (Also coffee- or espresso-containing ice creams or desserts).

* Avoid Sudafed or other decongestant cold medicines at night.

* Complete any aerobic exercise before 6 pm (or at least 3 hours before bedtime).

* Avoid anxiety-provoking activities close to bedtime.

* Plan your sleep by putting it into your schedule; plan for 8½ to 9 hours in bed.

* As much as possible, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This will help train your biological clock.

* Avoid getting in bed after midnight as late-hour sleep is not as helpful as earlier sleep.

* Avoid late afternoon or evening naps.

* Avoid naps longer than 45 minutes unless you are sick or quite sleep deprived.

* Avoid large meals or spicy foods before bed.

* Finish all eating 3 hours prior to going to sleep.

* Avoid drinking more than 4-8 ounces of fluid before going to bed.

* Consider reading a good neutral book under low light to help with falling asleep.

* Don’t stay in bed more than 20-30 minutes trying to fall asleep. Leave your bedroom and go to a relaxing room other than the bedroom and read or do a relaxation technique (e.g., deep breathing).

* Turn down the light in the bathroom and in rooms you are in 15 minutes before going to bed.

* Consider using a “side sleeper” pillow for under your neck when sleeping on your side

* Consider using a body pillow to hug and put between your knees to align your back and shoulders at night.

* Establish an evening herbal tea habit (chamomile or lavender) to support relaxation and sleep onset.

If you try the above and are still having sleep issues, I suggest you make an appointment to be evaluated and discover the cause of your insomnia. There are many contributing factors to sleep disturbance and most can be improved with some simple lifestyle modifications.

Amanda Chavers