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A Better Night’s Sleep

By Lisa Nicklanovich ; Pictures by

Many people don’t get the deep, restorative sleep needed on a regular basis. This is evidenced by the dramatic rise in the use of sleep aids, from herbal remedies to supplements and prescription drugs. In his book Keep Sharp, Sanjay Gupta, M.D. points out that, “Studies have convincingly proven that sleep habits ultimately rule everything about you – how big your appetite is, how fast your metabolism runs, how strong your immune system is, how insightful you can be, how well you cope with stress, how adept you are at learning, and how well you can consolidate experiences in your brain and remember things.”

Gupta and Rubin Naiman, a sleep specialist, offer some recommendations to help the wakeful obtain restorative rest. Their tips aim to increase the body’s own natural production of melatonin, the hormone for regulating sleep. Humans need non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and dream-rich REM sleep for optimum health and wellbeing, and their suggestions can help achieve both.

Choices about what and when one eats and drinks play an important part in sleep. Digestion takes energy and eating and drinking close to bedtime interferes with the body’s ability to rest and stay asleep. Don’t eat or drink three hours before bed. Avoid caffeine after lunch, and be mindful of alcohol intake after lunch which disrupts the sleep cycle. Medications can affect sleep as well.

Create a peaceful environment by reducing exposure to light and sound. At dinnertime, start to mimic the sunset outside in your own home by dimming the lights, which promotes the body’s production of melatonin. When going to sleep, minimize light sources and/or consider a sleep mask. Weighted eye masks, a cross between sleep masks and weighted blankets, have the dual benefit of blocking out light and using pressure to help with stress relief. Try a sound machine or white-noise generator to block out noises.

Move all electronics out of the bedroom and stay off all screens as the day winds down. Televisions, smartphones, tablets, and computers all emit artificial blue light which affects the body’s production of melatonin. If reading in bed with a tablet, get an app that changes the color temperature of the screen or get eyeglasses that filter out blue light.

Stick with a bedtime routine and schedule to create a healthy circadian rhythm. Experiment with restorative evening activities like stretching, listening to calming music or reading about 30 minutes prior to sleep. Basking in sunlight first thing in the morning helps to set one’s body clock.

In addition to all the critical activities that happen during sleep, increased energy, better focus and an improved mood are some of the other rewards of making sleep a priority.

For more information about getting quality sleep, visit



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