Special Report

19 Secrets to Sleep Better at Night

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1. Avoid caffeine several hours before bed

Caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided at least four to five hours before bed, according to Dr. Ari Laliotis, a board-certified sleep medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in California. This includes chocolate and coffee.

“Coffee has a decent half-life,” Dr. Joshua Tal, a psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders, said. “It stays in the body for five to six hours.” He doesn’t recommend having coffee after 3 p.m.

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2. Make the bedroom cool

“The body is designed to sleep better at cooler temperatures,” Dr. Kent Smith, founder of Sleep Dallas, a dental sleep medicine practice and president of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy, said. “In fact, our temperature naturally drops in the evening to prepare us for sleep,” he added. For most people, the optimal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 Fahrenheit, according to him.

That is why you should adjust the room temperature accordingly. “A warm room will raise your body temperature, making you uncomfortable, possibly waking you up and affecting your sleep negatively,” Laliotis said.

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3. Watch what you have for dinner

Avoid processed foods and sugar, which can interfere with blood sugar levels, Laliotis explained. High blood sugar leads to the kidneys working hard to eliminate it through urine, which means you’re probably waking up at night to go to the bathroom. Don’t eat any fatty foods or big meals before bedtime either, Smith said. “Eating high-fat, heavy foods that require extra effort to digest interrupts this restorative [sleep].”

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4. Snack on certain foods throughout the day

Eating a healthy, balanced diet provides the body with the nutrients it needs to achieve a good night’s rest, Smith said. “People who have trouble sleeping should add tryptophan, calcium and magnesium-rich foods to their diet.” These foods include leafy vegetables, tuna, eggs, whole grains, bananas, and pistachios, according to Smith.

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5. Don’t drink alcohol in the evening

Alcohol is a depressant, Laliotis explained. It wears off in the middle of the night, and that creates an uncomfortable feeling that wakes people up. “The brain wave patterns of a sleeping person who drank at night are the same as [the patterns] in the middle of the day.” Some types of alcohol are also high in sugar, raising your blood sugar level and keeping you awake.