If you’re trying to sleep better and nothing seems to be working, consider this your daily checklist for more restful nights. Anybody got a pen?
1) Eat Plenty of Magnesium
It’s been called “the most powerful relaxation mineral available,” but that’s not the only reason you want to increase your intake of this oft-forgotten nutrient: It also helps to control inflammation and lower your risk of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that optimal magnesium intake is important for sleep regulation, so aim for 310 to 420 milligrams of the stuff every day, especially as you approach bedtime. Good sources include leafy green vegetables (cooked spinach has 157mg per cup), pumpkin seeds (156mg per ounce), black beans (120mg per cup), and oatmeal (63mg per cup).
2) Limit Spicy Food
If spicy food agrees with you then let the hot sauce flow, but for many, it can lead to heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, a common cause of missed sleep. If you love chili con carne but a burning feeling in your chest is keeping you awake, lay off the jalapenos for a time and see if your symptoms improve. Same goes for overeating: Stuffing yourself and then lying down is a foolproof recipe for acid reflux.
3) Ditch Sugar
Sugar can cause some people to wake up with a craving once it leaves their system. Stick to low glycemic carbs, and if you love sweets after dinner, have some berries and cream – the fat will slow the sugar absorption and dull the insulin spike.
4) Meditate On the Regular
Getting your “om” on has been shown in several studies to not only make it easier for insomniacs to get to sleep, but also to increase sleep quality for non-insomniacs. Not sure where to start? Yoga is a great way to start upping your mindfulness game.
5) Work Out
The earlier the better if you have trouble nodding off at night. Like meditation, exercise has been shown in study after study to improve sleep quality, and the more consistent the exercise habit, the better the results – some insomniacs have reported better sleep after a 16-week exercise program than after the first session.
6) Get Right Out of Bed In the Morning
If hitting the snooze button is the first thing you do each morning, you might want to reevaluate your getting-up ritual. Though you might feel like you’re giving yourself five more minutes of rest to fuel your day, you’re actually doing the opposite. Those between-alarm minutes of dozing are very light, and actually less restful than the sleep you just emerged from. Counterintuitive as it might seem, getting out of bed right away will improve your overall sleep quality.
7) Keep a Journal
If you’ve got a lot on your mind, journaling has been shown to not just help us focus more on the positive aspects of our day to day lives, but also to help us avoid restlessness once we climb into bed. Think of it as a “brain dump” – a place to put your neuroses and leave them until tomorrow.
8) Wake Up At the Same Time Every Day
An irregular bedtime and wakeup schedule can lead to poor sleep quality. Especially as we get older, the body is a big fan of consistency. Train yourself to sleep and wake at the same time each day, and it becomes almost impossible to stay awake past bedtime.
9) Get Outside
Exposing yourself to daylight helps regulate the body’s internal clock, improve melatonin production, and reinforce your sleep schedule.
10) Get Plenty of Iron
Being low on iron is a surefire way to feel fatigued day in and day out – and it’s the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Most people should shoot for 8 to 18 milligrams of iron per day, and if you don’t like supplements, try your grocery store: Beans and meat are both terrific sources of the stuff, with a cup of white beans containing eight milligrams, and six ounces of beef packing around six.
There you have it! Ten science-backed tips to help you sleep better. Remember, be mindful of your health during the day, and good sleep is sure to follow at night.