By: Dr. Keith Kantor
Between 7 and 9 hours is a good benchmark for optimal amount of sleep because the average person goes through five 90 minute sleep cycles alternating between sleep (non-REM) and deep sleep (REM). It’s best to wake in-between deep sleep cycles rather than in the middle of one. Waking in the middle of REM can lead you to feeling groggy during the day.
Chronic fatigue is common problem most people suffer from and the tiredness can often be attributed to lifestyle factors, some that we may be aware of and others that most people are typically unaware of.
The blue light in the screen of your phone or tablet suppresses the sleep promoting hormone melatonin which regulates your sleep and wake cycles. The sleeping patterns are most disturbed when a person scrolls, or reads on their device right before bed they are at more risk for not sleeping as soundly as they would without being exposed to the blue light and out of whack melatonin levels.
Consumption of too much alcohol can have a negative effect on your overall quality of sleep. All of the upcoming generations including the baby boomers, generation X, and the millennial are consuming more alcohol regularly then their parents and as a population our sleep quality is being affected negatively. If you drink alcohol in the evening, it tends to wake you in the middle of the night, despite falling asleep easily. If you drink a lot regularly, it can make you depressed and also affect your body’s ability to get optimal restorative sleep. Sleep doctors report being surprised at how patients do not correlate their sleep problems with their regular consumption of alcohol. 1-2 alcohol containing drinks is okay to consume if you do not have any health conditions that are affected by alcohol consumption.
Adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.
Diet and exercise can go a long way towards getting better rest at night and being more alert during the day. Balancing healthy eating choices with a regular exercise routine can dramatically affect the way you perform throughout the day.
Avoid caffeine before bed. This one should be obvious, but many people have a hard time resisting caffeinated beverages before bedtime, especially in a culture that promotes coffee and energy drinks. Caffeine is a stimulant and will increase alertness at that crucial time when your body wants to wind down. If you are a habitual caffeine user, try avoiding using caffeine three hours before bedtime to help get you to sleep on time.
Limit or avoid these foods for quality sleep:
- Foods high in sugar and caffeinecan have a temporary energy-boosting effect on the mind and body’s alertness, but is often followed by a crashing feeling that can last much longer than the short energy-surge you were after. The insulin hormone imbalances can hinder your body’s ability to restore and repair efficiently.
- Fatty foods and processed carbohydrates like chips, doughnuts, cookies and fries, etc. have also been associated with daytime sleepiness. These foods may fill you up but they’re not loaded with the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to produce ample amounts of energy.
- Spicy foods close to bedtime. Spicy foods are notorious for causing heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. Heartburn can be made worse while lying down as it allows the acids to creep up into the esophagus and burn the sensitive lining.
Include and consume these foods for better sleep:
- Eat more healthy foods. Eating more foods that naturally boost your daily energy levels can go a long way in helping you feel more alert everyday. Eat more natural, unprocessed carbohydrates. Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, protein and high in vitamins. A short list of long lasting natural energy foods would be: leafy greens, whole unprocessed grains, healthy fats including tree nuts, seeds, oils, certified all natural meats poultry, beef, seafood, pork, eggs, fruits (especially dark fruits like berries), bell peppers and carrot sticks to name a few.
- Exercise more. Routine exercise can go a long way in curing your daytime fatigue. Exercise produces energy and it regulates hormones. It is recommended that you exercise at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Aside from the energy boost you’ll experience, exercise also releases endorphins that will boost your mood, self-esteem and overall vitality.
For optimal sleep and hormone balance limit your electronic use 90 minutes before bed, limit excessive alcohol consumption, and consume a healthy diet rich in quality all natural protein, fibrous vegetables, dark fruits and heart healthy fats including oils, nuts, seeds and avocados.