Trying to get more shut-eye? Take a look at your diet. Eating the right foods in the hours before you hit the hay may help you fall asleep faster, say experts, and even improve the quality of your sleep. Keep reading for your get-sleepy grocery list, and remember to stop noshing two hours before bedtime to give your body enough time to properly digest.
Sleeping lab image via Shutterstock
Birds do it, bees do it (we think), even educated monkeys do it. So let’s do it, people. Let’s fall asleep. (The musical portion of this blog is over; thanks for indulging.) But seriously: we’ve talked about the whys of taking naps before — they improve mood, creativity, memory function, heart health, and so much else — but never, to my knowledge, have we discussedhow to take a nap. In fact, whenever we write about naps, we always get a few comments from people claiming they’re unable to nap during the day; they just can’t fall asleep, or when they do nap they wake up groggy and unable to work. In that case, read on, my sleepy friends.
The first thing you should know is, feeling sleepy in the afternoon is normal. It doesn’t mean you had a big lunch, or that you’re depressed, or you’re not getting enough exercise. That’s just how animals’ cycles work — every 24 hours, we have two periods of intense sleepiness. One is typically in the wee hours of the night, from about 2am to 4am, and the other is around 10 hours later, between 1pm and 3pm. If you’re a night owl and wake up later in the morning, that afternoon sleepiness may come later; if you’re an early bird, it may come earlier. But it happens to everyone; we’re physiologically hardwired to nap.
Naps provide different benefits depending on how long they are. A short nap of even 20 minutes will enhance alertness and concentration, mood and coordination. A nap of 90 minutes will get you into slow wave and REM sleep, which enhances creativity. If you sleep deeply and uninterruptedly the whole time, you’ll go through a full 90-minute sleep cycle, and recoup sleep you might not have gotten the night before (we’ve all heard it a million times, but most of us don’t get enough sleep at night).
Try not to sleep longer than 45 minutes but less than 90 minutes; then you’ll wake up in the middle of a slow-wave cycle, and be groggy. I used to hate taking naps during the day for just this reason — I would always wake up in a fog. My problem was I hadn’t yet perfected the art of the 20-minute catnap.
Find a nice dark place where you can lie down. It takes about 50% longer to fall asleep sitting up (this is why red eye flights usually live up to their name), and be armed with a blanket; you don’t want to be chilly. You also don’t want to be too warm, which can lead to oversleeping. (There was a kind of urban legend circulating when I was a kid: don’t fall asleep in the sun, or you’ll never wake up. Not true — but you might wake up three hours later with a ripe sunburn.)
White noise can help you fall asleep, especially during the day when construction crews, garbage trucks, barking dogs and other noisy awake-world things can conspire to destroy your nap. Keep a fan on, or turn on a nearby faucet for a pleasing rushing-river sound. (Just kidding about that last one.)
Don’t nap too close to bedtime, or you might not be able to fall asleep later. Remember, your inbuilt sleepy window is sometime in the early to mid-afternoon — try to nap then.
Quit that silly job where they don’t let you take naps during the day.
BY VICTORIA DAWSON HOFF
Daylight Savings is upon us once again, which not only means that we get to see the sun after 5pm—it’s also basically the benchmark that declares spring’s imminent arrival. And while November’s time shift reminded us to clock in a few more Zzzzs, we’re calling it: Hibernation is officially over. It’s time to make the most of the light (not to mention the warmth!) and take on the longer days with some enthusiasm. How? We called upon experts in sleep, nutrition, and fitness to lay out exactly what we should be doing and eating during the day to get—and stay—as naturally energized as possible. Get the lowdown below:
Plus, more tips from our experts:
“Don’t worry too much about your sleep. Everyone has an occasional bad night, and the effects of a single bad night’s sleep are not serious.”—Steven H. Feinsilver, MD; Director, Center for Sleep Medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital
“Write a list of things that need to be done before going to bed to put the To Do list to rest. Keep a notepad handy so thoughts that come up can be written down quickly instead of ruminating.”—Dale Noelle, Founder, CEO, and Fitness Expert at TRUE Model Management
“Skip the afternoon coffee—it takes women 8 hours to metabolize caffeine. Green tea is mildly caffeinated but is balanced by l-theanine and catechins, which keep you zen-like.”—Dana James, MS, CNS, CDN, and Founder & Director of Food Coach NYC
Infographic: By Erin Toland
The amount of sleep you get every night is important, but what’s even more important is that the sleep you’re getting is good sleep. If you have aches, pains, indigestion, or tend to snore, these are the positions that can help cure what ails you.
This helpful graphic from The Wall Street Journal points out some common trouble spots and how you can adjust the way you sleep to make sure you have sweet dreams. Back pain? Try a pillow between your knees. Acid Reflux or indigestion? Elevate your head with some more comfy pillows or a few bricks under your bed’s legs. Don’t waste your precious sleeping hours by forcing yourself to sleep uncomfortably. For more information on how your sleeping position can affect you, check out the complete Wall Street Journal article at the link below.
9 Little Known Secrets to Living Past 90
In a world of technological advancements, it which medicine benefits a great deal from new developments, it is little surprise that the human lifespan is increasing. However, it is not as long as it could be. At a TED conference last year, Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, pointed out that the human body is meant to last until about 90 — 12 years longer than the current average American age of 78.
There are some secrets to living longer. Many scientists have studied those who live the longest, looking to find similarities. Here are nine secrets that can help you live past the age of 90:
- Genes: One of the factors that figures into longevity is your genetic make up. Even though non-genetic factors are involved in living longer, the presence of certain genes might actually boost your chances. It was also found that siblings of centenarians were four times more likely to live past the age of 90 than those who had no siblings live so long. But, even though genes can help, they aren’t everything. Indeed, some scientists believe that longevity depends more on non-genetic factors. So, even if your family doesn’t have a history of living past 90, it doesn’t mean you won’t. Just make sure you make up for it with healthier practices.
- Eat fewer calories: One of the biggest Americans have is that they eat too much. Of course, what Americans eat does make a difference, but they should be eating fewer calories in general. Indeed, eating too much, and gaining weight, puts strain on your heart — and that’s even before the arteries clog up and you have a heart attack. If you cut back on calories, you can extend your life. Indeed, research from the International Longevity Center – USA finds that animals fed fewer calories live about 40 percent longer than those fed a great deal more calories. JAMA suggests that you should eat 25 percent fewer calories than you are now, if you want a better chance of living to 90. So, consider how much you are eating, and consider reducing your portion sizes.
- Eat colorful fruits and vegetables: It’s not enough just to eat more fruits and vegetables. The kind of produce you consume matters. Vibrant fruits and vegetables are the best when it comes to living longer because they have antioxidants. These are nutrients that actually stop damaging “free radicals” from harming your cells. Colorful produce that you should focus on include cranberries, cherries, broccoli, spinach, red apples, spirulina, blueberries and grapes. You should aim for five servings of fruit and five of vegetables. Replacing one red meat entree a week with a veggie entree can be a good first step. You will find that dark chocolate and red wine, when taken in moderation, are also good for aging and the brain.
- Meditate: It’s fairly obvious that if you want to be healthy, you need to exercise. Indeed, people lose muscle and bone mass as they age. This can make them prone to falls and disease. Exercising every day can help reduce this problem. But, you shouldn’t just focus on exercising. You need time to relax as well. It’s not just about moving; it’s also about sitting still for some time each day to relieve stress. Aging expert Thomas Perls points out that meditation and prayer are two ways that can help you relieve the negative stress that can contribute to reduced immune efficiency as you age. Take some time each day to relax, letting the stress ebb out. This can help you live a little longer.
- Sleep longer: Sleep problems can lead to dementia and other complaints. If you want to live past 90 — especially if you want to remain sharp past 90 — it is vital that you get a good night’s sleep. Interestingly, though, senior citizens don’t necessarily need quality sleep. Indeed, getting enough sleep is more important as you age than getting good quality sleep. Younger people rely on quality sleep, with large blocks of good sleep. You don’t need hours of unbroken sleep as you age, but you do need a solid seven to nine hours of sleep when you get older. So if you do it a little bit at a time, napping in the afternoons, and getting sleep at night (even if it is disjointed) it can help you live longer.
- Learn something new: You don’t have to go to college to learn something new. You can learn new things every day. And, while taking a class at the local university can be a good way to learn something new, it’s not the only way to learn new things. You can extend your life past 90 by learning something new, so develop a new hobby. You can play chess, take up painting, dancing, music, birding, or even learn another language. Those who read a great deal, and look for ways to interact with the world around them, can build brain cells and make connections between neurons that are already there. And, learning something new can be a good way to enjoy yourself and help relieve stress.
- Discover your purpose: Those who feel as though they have a purpose in life are more likely to live longer. Indeed, there is evidence that men who have a greater sense of purpose are more likely to be protected from stroke and heart attack than those who feel comparatively useless. So consider what you can do. Think about meaningful activities that you can be involved with. This includes volunteerism and charity work, participation in the community, and interactions with family and friends. Goal setting and accomplishment (or working toward accomplishment) can aid in this feeling of purpose. When you have something to live for, you are more likely to live longer!
- Optimism: A good attitude can go a long way toward living longer. Research from the University of Texas shows that a positive attitude can actually delay the aging process, increasing your longevity. When you attempt to improve your outlook, the chemical balance in your body can actually change for the better. Additionally, optimism can help relieve stress, and help you feel a better sense of purpose. Making an effort to look for the good side of things can help you improve your outlook. It is also a good idea to ignore negative stereotypes about aging as well; a study from North Carolina State University found that seniors exposed to negative stereotypical descriptions performed worse in memory tests than those that focused on positive descriptions of aging.
- Social life: Having a social life can actually help you live longer. When you interact with friends and family, you can enjoy greater satisfaction with your life, and increase the chance that you will live past the age of 90. Indeed, being active in a church congregation, joining a book club, going to lunch once a month with your friends, and even enjoying a bridge night can help you live longer. Family activities can also be a good way to interact with others and live longer. Even social interaction online can have positive outcomes. The key is developing and maintaining long-term relationships that are fulfilling.