You’ve done all the obvious stuff—cut out late-night caffeine, made sure your bedroom is dark and cozy, avoided scary movies . So why are you still tossing and turning? Certain habits you’re unaware of could be sabotaging your sleep .
And, as you may know, lack of shut-eye doesn’t just leave you foggy the next day: Chronic, long-term insufficient sleep ups your odds of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, even weight gain. So what to do? Try these unexpected tweaks, and wake up feeling incredibly well-rested.
Halt your afternoon habit
It’s a no-brainer that drinking coffee or tea right before you hit the sack won’t do you any sleep favors. But you also need to watch your afternoon drinks, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, a clinical associate professor at Boston University. It’s got caffeine, and so do some flavored waters and even sodas, Blake warns. Check the labels on your favorite midday drinks—any that boast energy-boosting benefits are likely culprits. Naturally, coffee drinks pack a real wallop, so stay away from them after lunch.
Choose sleep superfoods
While it’s important to avoid a big, heavy meal right before bed (a full stomach will disturb your sleep), some foods may actually help you snooze. If you’ve had a few nights of restless sleep, make a light whole-wheat-pasta dish with fresh vegetables, a little diced chicken breast, tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of Parmesan for dinner. This meal contains a snooze-friendly combination of protein and tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to sleep-promoting serotonin in the body.
If your stomach’s growling late at night, try a small bowl of cottage cheese with banana slices, another dish that serves up tryptophan. Other combos of healthy carbs and protein, such as milk and graham crackers or yogurt sprinkled with cereal, will also do the trick.
Take an early soak
Like to unwind in the tub before you snooze? Surprisingly, a hot bath might make it harder for you to drift off: Doing anything that raises your body temperature too close to bedtime may actually hinder you from falling asleep, because your body needs to cool to a certain temperature in order to reach a sound slumber, says J. Todd Arnedt, PhD, director of the University of Michigan Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program. That doesn’t mean you can’t soak after a rough day—when you get home from work, not right before turning in.
Set the mood for slumber
Keeping your room dark while you sleep is a great start, but bringing the lights down before bed is also important. Bright light too close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep. That’s because dimness signals the biological clock that it’s time to wind down, while bright light says “daytime!” Swap out überbright bedroom bulbs for low-watt ones, or install a dimmer switch and keep it low. Like to read in bed? Do it in the lowest light that’s still comfortable.