The 6 Big Sleep Busters

February 5, 2008 at 8:31 am (misc)

At some point or another, it happens to everyone: You can’t sleep. When you finally drop off, the alarm buzzes a microsecond later. Then you can’t get up. And then it gets worse: When you finally drag yourself out of bed, you look like youknowhat.Can’t imagine why the sleep gods had it in for you? Think about what you ate the night before, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of The Food & Mood Cookbook. Any of the following–much less a combo platter–can leave your body on uneasy street for hours.

1. Spicy Foods  Garlic, chilies, cayenne, and other intense spices are yummy going down but can keep you up with heartburn or indigestion. Avoid MSG too, as it can trigger dreams that are a bit too vivid.

2. A Big Dinner  An overtaxed digestive system takes hours to settle down and there’s nothing restful about that. When sleep’s critical, make lunch your largest meal and enjoy a light 500-calorie dinner early in the evening.

3. Raucous Veggies  Eat those good-for-you-but-gassy foods–beans, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts–in the middle of the day. A tankful of gas can keep anyone up at night.

4. Speed Eating  Relax and enjoy meals to avoid swallowing air, another common cause of midnight tummy trouble.

5. Nightcaps  Alcohol may make you drowsy at first but later on it disturbs sleep patterns and leads to awakenings and restlessness. A 4-ounce glass of wine with dinner won’t hurt, as long as it’s not within two hours of bedtime.

6. Coffee after breakfast  Caffeine can linger in your body for as long as 12 hours. So if you’re often wide-eyed at bedtime, make sure you’re caffeine-clean for at least 12 hours. (Skip tea, chocolate, cola, or other caffeine culprits too.) Still watching the clock at 2 a.m.? Wean yourself off even morning java, then stay caffeine-free for two weeks. If you definitely sleep better, you have your answer: Caffeine is not your friend. If the results are mixed, “Try adding back a cup or two of coffee or tea in the morning and watch what happens,” says Somer. “But if sleeplessness comes back, cut it out.”

Getting 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night doesn’t just make your eyes bright, your skin happy, and your mind sharp, it can also make your RealAge as much as 3 years younger.


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