A brief guide to better sleep

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Yesterday, I wrote a post about how a lack of sleep might contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Today, I’m following this up on a guide to how to get better sleep. In no particular order, here are some of the strategies which I’ve found consistent success with in terms of improving sleep quality, and most of them work work remarkably quickly.

1. Eat a ‘primal’ diet
I’ve found that a major cause of waking in the night and sleep disruption is episodes of low blood sugar (which turns on the stress response). Eating a ‘primal’ diet seems to guard against this and I’ve seen it improve sleep considerably and consistently.

2. Avoid alcohol in the evening

This is another consistent finding: individuals who avoid alcohol in the evening generally sleep better and feel more rested the following morning than when they drink. Avoiding coming into the evening very hungry can help here, as hunger is often a major factor in drinking. Keeping hydrated in the day and not being thirsty in the evening will generally help here too.

3. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime (or perhaps earlier)

Some people tolerate caffeine late in the day OK, but many don’t. Cutting out caffeine after lunch often helps.

4. Daytime light
Light appears to be important for the production of melatonin – a hormone that plays a key role in sleep. Light early in the day seems to be best here, so getting out in the morning or at least lunchtime for 20 minutes or so is a good idea. Alternatively, you might like to try a light device.

5. Turn the lights down low at night
Bright light in the evening can impair sleep, so try and get by with as little light exposure as possible for a couple of hours or so before bed.

6. Eyeshades
Total darkness seems to aid sleep, but who can ensure a totally dark bedroom? Not many of us. Eyeshades have potential value here. I prefer those made out of silk as I find these to be the most comfortable.

7. Earplugs
Noise is another common sleep-disrupter, whether this be traffic noise, a buzzing mini-bar in a hotel room or snoring partner. I think earplugs are an under-used Godsend. The best make I’ve found are foam plugs made by the company Quies.

8. Relaxation techniques
These can help calm the mind and body and smooth the transition into sleep. They can be used to get to sleep or help get back to sleep if you wake in the night. A couple of commonly used techniques (which can be applied together) are ‘progressive muscular relaxation’ and abdominal (‘belly’) breathing. There’s plenty of information about these techniques on the internet.

9. Magnesium
This mineral has a calming influence on the brain. It’s also a critically important nutrient for muscular functioning, and a lack of it (quite common) can cause symptoms such as restlessness, restless legs and muscular cramp. A lot of people find magnesium aids their sleep. Magnesium supplements come in many different forms and some are more bioavailable (absorbable and useful to the body) than others. One worth avoiding is magnesium oxide (cheap but not very absorbable). Better forms of magnesium include magnesium citrate, taurinate, glycinate and succinate. Personally, I suggest about 400 mg of elemental magnesium a day, perhaps best taken in the evening.

More To Explore

Walking versus running

I recently read an interesting editorial in the Journal of American College of Cardiology about the relative benefits of walking and running [1]. The editorial

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