Sleeping Beauty

Get a better night’s rest with these 9 tips you probably haven’t heard before

woman-yawning-in-bed

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When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, you’re probably familiar with all the low-hanging “ZZZs.” Keep your room ultra-dark—even the tiny artificial glow from your Apple TV can disrupt your dreams. Take a melatonin supplement, maintain a regular sleep schedule the entire week and avoid caffeine before bed.

But what if you’re doing all that and still not getting high-quality shut-eye?

We’ve called in the Sandman. Here are nine unique tips from the pros that will help lull you to sleep.

1. MAKE TIME FOR A STORY
Try listening to an audio novel before bedtime, suggests Jodi J. De Luca, a licensed clinical psychologist who has a private practice and also practices at Boulder Community Hospital’s emergency department. “Make sure the content of the story is pleasant and calming,” she says. “The rhythm of the narrator’s voice can help lull you to sleep by slowing down brainwave activity.” If you’re worried  about keeping your partner awake, find a comfortable pair of earphones or headphones to wear, De Luca suggests.

2. FORCE A YAWN
When you’re in bed for the evening, force yourself to yawn four to five times, suggests Andrea Crane, a Denver-based licensed clinical nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner with In All Your Ways, LLC. “This will send a signal to quiet the brain, indicating readiness for sleep,” she says.

3. GO CAMPING
Research from the University of Colorado-Boulder that involved Colorado campers found that filling the day with natural light and the night with true darkness for even just a weekend can be a boon for your circadian rhythm. The paper published in Current Biology suggests that our internal clocks respond strongly, and quite rapidly, to the natural light-dark cycle, says Kenneth Wright, a CU-Boulder integrative physiology professor who led the research.

4. MAKE BANANA TEA
Bananas are a high-source of magnesium. But it’s their peel that is especially packed with magnesium, a nutrient that helps people relax, says Michael Breus, who is known as The Sleep Doctor and is an advisory board member of SleepScore Labs. He makes a “banana tea” by washing an organic banana, cutting off the tip and the stem, and then cutting it in half, leaving the fruit in the peel and the skin on. Then, he says, he’ll put the banana in boiling water for three to four minutes, and drink the water with a dab of honey. “It’s delicious and helps to induce relaxation and sleep,” Breus says.

5. DRINK TART CHERRY JUICE
Adding Montmorency tart cherries to your diet could be a natural way to get better sleep, Breus adds. The tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

6. WEAR SOCKS TO BED
You’ve probably heard that you should create a cave-like environment in your bedroom, one that’s cool and dark. That’s true! In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping with a room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees. Cold feet, however, can prevent you from falling asleep, so it’s a good idea to wear socks to bed, says Julie Tramonte, a sleep advocate with Verlo Mattress, which has Colorado showrooms.

7. EAT FOODS HIGH IN TRYPTOPHAN
We know what you’re thinking: Thanksgiving turkey. But there are other foods that are full of tryptophan, too. They include tofu, pineapples, nuts and seeds, salmon and eggs, says Dr. Eric Braverman, a brain health expert who founded PATH Medical Center. Serotonin is the sleep regulator in the brain and is biochemically derived from tryptophan, he says. “When people exhibit tryptophan deficiency, their serotonin is deregulated, causing sleep problems,” Braverman notes. “This can be easily solved by eating more foods high in tryptophan.”

8. FEED YOUR GUT ‘PREBIOTICS’
You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of probiotics, which are the good bacteria found in fermented foods and packed in dietary supplements. But researchers from CU-Boulder have found that lesser-known gut-health promoters, known as prebiotics, can help improve sleep. Prebiotics are dietary fibers naturally found in foods such as artichokes, chicory, raw garlic, leeks and onions. Robert Thompson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Integrative Physiology, and author of a study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, says dietary prebiotics can improve non-REM sleep as well as REM sleep after a stressful event.

9. STRETCH IT OUT
Stretching might be a part of your morning routine, but it’s a good way to unwind at night, too, suggests Mary Beth LaRue, co-founder of Rock Your Bliss, a yoga-inspired coaching movement. LaRue says before bed she puts her legs up on the wall for 5 to 7 minutes. “This posture is great for moving lymph and other fluids, and is great for circulation,” she says. “I focus on my breathing while I’m here with a few deep exhales out of my mouth. Every once in a while, I just grab a book and hold the pose for 20 minutes, while I read and unwind.” You can also use this time to practice mindfulness meditation, which involves focusing on your breathing and bring your mind’s attention to the present. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps improve sleep and fight insomnia, according to a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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