5 things that stop you sleeping
And top tips on ways to avoid them
Here are the five common things that stop you sleeping well – and tips on how to avoid them.
What you eat just before bedtime can influence your sleep, and potatoes have been long regarded as a no-no because they are rich in the amino acid tyramine, which the body converts to brain stimulant noradrenaline. However, research has shown that foods with a high glycemic index ranking – which includes red baked potatoes – can help you fall asleep quicker if you eat them within four hours of your bedtime, as they speed up the release of tryptophan and serotonin. Foods more usually said to aid sleep include yoghurt, milk, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts and tuna.
We’re often told that exercising within a few hours of your bedtime is certain to keep you awake. But researchers at the Arizona State University in Phoenix have found that some people who exercise in the evening sleep just as well as those who don’t. However, it may depend on what exercise you do. Sleep specialist Dr Matt Bianchi of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston recommends people who have trouble sleeping be “thoughtful and introspective about finding patterns in their own lives”. So relaxing exercises like yoga and tai chi might be better for you.
Ideally, our night-time body temperature should only be half a degree less than it is during the day. As we wind down to sleep, our body clock triggers the blood vessels in our hands, feet and face to open up in order to lose heat. However, if our bedrooms or the duvet is too warm, we can’t lose that heat, which can lead to a restless night. So make sure the heating goes off early enough or is low enough in your bedroom that it isn’t too warm and make sure you have the appropriate tog duvet for the season.
While a nightcap might help you go to sleep, too much alcohol can make you restless, prevents REM sleep (which is when we dream) and, as it’s a diuretic, means you may well end up going to the toilet in the night. It’s also more likely to lead to snoring, which can reduce oxygen in your blood and that in turn disturbs sleep. Avoid caffeine too in coffee, chocolate and cola drinks and instead try milky drinks or herbal teas. Nicotine from smoking is also a stimulant, so avoid a cigarette within six hours of bedtime.
A study in America has found that 95 per cent of us use some type of electronic device within the hour before going to bed, but scientists say the ‘blue’ light given off by devices like mobile phones, tablets, computers, TVs and even energy-efficient lightbulbs delays the release of melatonin in our brains, keeping us awake. Aim to keep electronics out of the bedroom or turn off any you keep near you at least an hour before bed. And to help you wind down, try reading a real book, rather than one on an e-reader!