Know Your Sleep Inhibitors
Today, we’ll look at the things that can inhibit sleep and restfulness.
Caffeine is a big one. Most of us know not to drink coffee when bedtime nears. That’s because caffeine can stay in your bloodstream, actively inhibiting sleep, for six hours or more depending on your sensitivity. Caffeine is found in several foods and beverages, including tea, sodas, chocolate, and even some pain relievers. We recommend avoiding these things anytime after noon. Learn your own personal sensitivity to caffeine, as it is not the same for all.
Smoking is another sleep stealer. Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant that can make it hard to fall asleep or can also deliver a less restful sleep. So that’s another reason to quit smoking.
Alcohol before bed can also create problems. While alcohol might help you fall asleep, your increased blood sugar can actually cause you to wake up and make it more difficult to go back to sleep. Alcohol eliminates REM sleep, which occurs in the second half of the night. In other words, drinking will make you wake up very early and not get back to sleep. The general recommendation for alcohol use is no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two for men. And, of course, some people shouldn’t use alcohol at all. If you have questions about alcohol use or if you have difficulty drinking in moderation, talk with your doctor.
Eating too much or too heavy of a meal before bed or going to sleep hungry can disrupt your sleep as well. We recommend eating a light meal, like a salad or a small sandwich, in the evening several hours before bedtime for optimal sleep.
And of course, while staying hydrated is a good thing, drinking too much water before bed will undoubtedly lead to waking up in the middle of the night for a bathroom run. This is especially the case as we get older. Aging is associated with decreases in both slow wave sleep and REM sleep, and the biggest culprit is our need to urinate in the middle of the night. So although you don’t want to go to bed thirsty, you might choose to suck on an ice cube rather than drink a whole glass of water in the hours before bedtime.
Ok, that’s enough for the not-to-do list. In the next lesson, we’ll talk about what we can do to make it easier for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.
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