We are such stuff as dreams are made on...but what ingredients make up a good night's sleep?. This is an area where you can really geek out and get all tech-y about the best kind of mattress, the most relaxing music to listen to (sorry, but no), and the exact order your bedtime routine should take. That's cool, but not really our style. Ditto for wearable sleep monitors; I personally don't feel like I need super specific stats on my sleep patterns and activities (!). I'll know I've gotten a good nights' sleep because...I slept, and I don't feel tired the next day. I actually think devices like this can be damaging; what is so pernicious about tracking technology is that it excuses us from really engaging with ourselves and monitoring how we feel. And with everyone looking for painless ways to unplug and digitally detox, this seems like an obvious place to start...take a break from tech while you are unconscious - it couldn't be easier, right? Finally, sleep monitors may not be that reliable. Nevertheless, some people live for this stuff - if that is you, go for it.
Ultimately, as with everything related to health, there is no magic pill that will guarantee a night of awesome sleep (seriously, Ambien will make you do crazy things (starting at 5:27).). I am going to state up front that I think the number 1 thing you can do to sleep better is just spend an hour before bed in your PJs reading a book (free easy and fun - yay!) BUT let's be real: none of us are doing this on the daily. So when you are struggling to fall and/or stay asleep, it can be helpful to have a sense of some tricks you can try to improve the situation. Therefore, welcome to the first post in a series dedicated to briefly cataloguing the things that are supposed to help and hurt our ability to fall and stay asleep. Keeping with our holistic theme, we'll look at everything you can do from how you design your room to how you design your day, touching on diet, movement mentality & more. We'll conclude with what to do when you've gone ahead and done it - had dinner at 10 PM plus
half a bottle of rosé (I'm still nostalgic for summer, clearly).
We'll start with food, because it turns out that there's a world beyond warm milk and dry turkey to prime your body for your best bedtime. Some of the key chemical components of good sleep are calcium, magnesium, B6, and the famous tryptophan. The concept though isn't to eat foods containing these nutrients immediately before bed (though if you are going to midnight snack, these are better options) but to work them into your diet on a general basis. Nothing groundbreaking here I'm afraid; healthy food is healthy food, but if you are struggling with sleep, it might be worth checking to see if you can include more of these guys in your meals.
Melatonin is the hormone released by your body when you sleep, and a recent study has shown that drinking 2 glasses daily of tart cherry juice (which contains melatonin) helped with sleeplessness. Interesting, but, given that most of us would probably have to go on a bit of expedition to find tart cherry juice, and that, for all it's "tartness", it still quite sugar-laden, I would class this under one to try only if you're really struggling. Some people find melatonin tablets helpful, but in my experience they don't promote deep sleep and I've recently been told they can be habit forming, so sadly that is another potential shortcut I won't be taking.
More appealing beverages may be warm milk (I guess - yuck) and classic herbal teas like chamomile and lavender. Again, not exactly novel, but there are some ranges that do more interesting blends these days, like this one.
The list of what not to eat is obvious and boring - caffeine in the afternoon, heavy or sugary foods late at night (boo) and too much
fun booze all compromise our sleep. Welcome to the world of adult living. What's more interesting is what to do when you've done these things and still want to try to sleep well. That's coming up in another post - check back in soon. Here's a little preview: befriend some mamas, or invest in some pedialyte.