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Get The Sleep You Need

Updated on June 11, 2009

What Is The Sleep Cycle?

You cycle through five sleep stages several times during the night. The first four are progressively deeper. As you ease out of deep sleep, you enter the lighter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, then start over again. We spend 30 percent of our sleep time in the deepest stages.

Sleep well last last night? According to experts, the answer is often no, even when we think our slumber is good. A good night's rest isn't just a matter of spending enough hours in bed or avoiding insomnia. It's also important that the sleep you do get is of good quality.If your sleep is fitful or if you suffer from brief awakenings through the night, you may not be getting the restorative rest you need. People have long taken simple dietary measures to promote good sleep, and many of these can indeed help ensure that you wake up feeling refreshed and revived.

A Basic Necessity

Scientists are still trying to learn the specific ways in which sleep affects the body and why people need it, but they have established this basic truth: Sleep is necessary for our physical and mental health, especially for our immune and nervous systems. Too little sleep leaves us feeling drowsy, impairs memory, makes it difficult to concentrate, interferes with problem-solving ability, and hinders physical performance.Fortunately, if you're somewhat sleep-deprived, just one night of high-quality sleep should refresh you completely.

Influences On Slumber

Many factors influence sleep quality, including noise, light, temperature, and your sleep schedule. Most people sleep better when bedtime and wake-up time occur at the same time each day and when the bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Exercise regularly, and no closer than four or five hours before bedtime, to avoid alertness and to help your body cool down. Just as important, what-and when-you eat can also have a significant impact on sleep quality; some foods can promote restful sleep and others may inhibit it. Nutrients like magnesium, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates can help you sleep better, while fat, caffeine, and alcohol tend to inhibit or disrupt deep sleep.


Turkey sandwich
Turkey sandwich

Best Bedtime Snacks

  • Banana
  • Cold cereal with milk
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Decaffeinated herbal tea
  • English muffin
  • Half a turkey sandwich
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-grain toast with peanut butter

A Snooze-Inducing Diet

You can help yourself sleep better at night by eating the right things during the day. A well-balanced diet includes nature's sleep aids:

  • magnesium, found in meats, seafood, greens, and dairy products; and 
  • B vitamins, found in meats, whole grains, bananas, beans, potatoes, and broccoli.
  • A light, well-planned bedtime snack may also encourage a restful night. To help ensure that you get good-quality sleep, aim for these nutrients, which can help promote restful slumber:

Complex Carbohydrates  These essential starches encourage sound sleep because they trigger the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that calms the mind and helps govern the brain's sleep/wake cycle, making you feel tranquil. To start the process of winding down, serve bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice at dinner. all high in complex carbs. For a bedtime snack, choose an English muffin, toast, or cereal with milk.

Minerals  Magnesium and calcium work together to help muscles relax and contract, and play a role in stimulating and calming the nerves. Zinc and magnesium may help control restless legs syndrome, an aching or fidgety feeling in the legs that can cause chronic sleeplessness. It's known that poor sleep can rob the body of magnesium, which may in turn make it harder to deal with nighttime anxiety. Good sources of magnesium include green, leafy vegetables like spinach, whole grains, peas, nuts, and dried beans.

B Vitamins  Studies have found that an increased intake of a number of B vitamins, including B6, thiamin, and folic acid, may improve sleep. These vitamins help regulate amino acids, including tryptophan, which is necessary for production of serotonin. They may also influence the action of melatonin, a hormone-like compound that helps regulate sleep patterns. You'll get ample amounts of the B vitamins in small portions of lean red meat.

Herbal Nightcaps  Some herbs are thought to have soothing properties that help promote sleep. Reach for teas like chamomile, hops, lemon balm, catnip, fennel, melissa, passionflower, primrose, rosemary, skullcap, and valerian.

Food For Thought

Drinking warm milk has long been thought to promote sleepiness, but science can't vouch for it. In theory, milk should work because its proteins contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce the soothing brain chemical serotonin. Instead, however, other amino acids in high-protein foods like milk compete with each other for absorption, blocking any serotonin-boosting effect. 


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    • shegarlynn profile image

      shegarlynn 8 years ago from United States

      thanks ladyvenus, for commenting this article. I hope you will come back again.