May 31, 2017 11:27 AM By Melissa Matthews @M_Matthewsm.firstname.lastname@example.org
If your morning cup of coffee is chased with a second serving and coworkers nudge you awake in long meetings, then you're probably tired, cranky and need to read this article. About one in three Americans lack the recommended seven hours of sleep, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, and all of that yawning can take a toll on our mental and physical health. The chronically sleepy are at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
So what’s keeping us up at night? The internet. At least, that’s what Dr. James A. Rowley, M.D. and Detroit Medical Center Interim Chief for the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, thinks. He points out that many people stay up browsing their laptops and phones late into the night. Rowley believes the best way to get some shut eye is to maintain a good bedtime routine, attempt to sleep only when tired and to pad the time between electronic usage and slumber with a relaxing activity. But if you’ve done all this and are still left staring at the clock (which Rowley firmly advises against) try one of these five untraditional ways to get a full eight hours.
“I often recommend tart cherry juice to my clients who have difficulty sleeping,” says Tracy Lockwood, a registered dietitian in New York City with a master of science in clinical nutrition. “There are not only strong antioxidants, but it has melatonin that aids in sleep and relaxation.”
A very small study from 2014 showed that when consumed twice a day, tart cherry juice helped insomniacs sleep about 90 minutes more a night. And as Lockwood explains, the juice is full of antioxidants, serves as an anti-inflammatory, and has been shown to reduce pain in patients with arthritis.
Dr. Anda Baharav, M.D. and founder of sleep tracking app SleepRate, believes the heavy reliance on artificial light has disrupted our bodies’ biological clocks and sleep cycles. She recommends undoing the damage with a trip to the woods. “A week of camping outside can make a positive change as we engage in activities that are more conducive to our natural sleep-wake cycle,” she says.
A study earlier this year indicated that spending a few days outdoors on a camping trip can reset your internal clock, backing Baharav’s suggestion. If you can’t take the time off, she suggests foregoing sunglasses during the day, unwinding at sunset, and avoiding screens and emails after dark.
We never need an excuse to eat, but Rowley recommends having something small before bed as a way to help induce slumber. “Key is snack, not a meal,” cautions the doctor. While you don’t want to go overboard, a snack can stave off hunger, which could prevent you from falling asleep or cause you to wake you up at 3 a.m. Opt for something light and easily digestible, like a handful of almonds or some sliced turkey.
While you might not want to actually do this in bed (that could get a little messy), Parinaz Samimi, a sleep and wellness expert with Mattress Firm, advises resorting back to the childhood pastime. “It simulates a response similar to deep breathing, which elicits the relaxation response.” If for some reason you’d rather not, Samimi suggests subbing in simple breathing exercises. Start by lying down, closing your eyes, and taking deep breaths into your abdomen for 15 minutes. Be sure to focus on both your inhales and exhales.
“Unknown to most people, bananas, especially the peel, are loaded with potassium and magnesium, two minerals that promote relaxation,” says Samimi. The sleep expert explains that magnesium helps our body cope with stress by relaxing our muscles, which in turn, helps us relax enough to get some ZZZZ. When sleep-deprived, our glucose levels spike, and that can cause long-term health risks like diabetes. Research has shown that cinnamon lowers blood sugar, so Samimi pairs the two sleep-enhancing ingredients into an easy tea. Her easy recipe calls for cutting the ends off a banana, placing it in boiling water for 10 minutes and sprinkling with cinnamon. Be sure to leave the peel on when boiling.