Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Having trouble falling asleep? Try these research-proven methods for a restful night

Published:Wednesday | April 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The better-ventilated rooms had lower levels of CO2 in the air, which seemed to translate to better slumber.
Many people find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets
New research shows that having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning means you’re more likely to sleep better at night.
To catch more zzzzzs, try adding more nuts to your daily diet
Invest in a pair of blue light-blocking glasses.
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You would be amazed to know that millions of people around the world suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder, from quite severe to mild. Whichever category you fall in, one too many restless, sleepless nights can have significant impact on your health, so it's not something to take lightly. Sleep is as essential to your survival and good health as food and water, so taking steps to get the recommended minimum of seven hours a night is very important.

Adopting good sleep practices, which includes sticking to consistent bed- and wake-up times and avoiding caffeine in the evenings, can go a long way toward ensuring a good night's sleep.

Here are five scientifically-proven methods that you can put into practice to get more zzzzzzzs.

1. OPEN A WINDOW

"Air quality can be an unrecognised sleep stealer," noted clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD.

The solution might be as simple as opening a window or door, according to a study published in the journal Indoor Air. To test whether a build-up of carbon dioxide as a result of respiration affected sleep, Dutch researchers tracked 17 volunteers over five nights. Some of the participants slept with a bedroom door or window open, while others did not. The result: The better-ventilated rooms had lower levels of CO2 in the air, which seemed to translate to better slumber. Though the study was small, it confirms the results of a similar study that found people felt less sleepy and were better able to concentrate the next day when CO2 was controlled at night.

2 SLEEP WITH YOUR DOG

Mayo Clinic scientists evaluated the sleep of 40 adults and their dogs via activity trackers for seven nights and found that people with dogs in their rooms maintained a better-than-satisfactory 83 per cent sleep efficiency, a comparison of time spent asleep to total time in bed.

"Many people find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets," explained researcher Lois Krahn, MD. The caveat: The dogs should be in the bedroom, but not in the bed: People who had their canines under the covers sacrificed quality sleep.

3. LOOK FORWARD TO MORNINGS

New research shows that having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning means you're more likely to sleep better at night. The study, which looked at 800 older adults, found that those who felt their lives had meaning were 63 per cent less likely to have sleep apnea and 52 per cent less likely to have restless leg syndrome, two common causes for insomnia. They also had better sleep quality.

Studies have shown that dedication to family and friends, and involvement in social and political activities promote life satisfaction, while commitment to career success and material gains seems to detract from it.

4. HAVE MORE NUTS

To catch more zzzzzs, try adding more nuts to your daily diet. Besides being loaded with nutrients (like magnesium and selenium) that are associated with restful slumber, a new study from Loma Linda University Health finds that eating these bite-size snacks on a regular basis strengthens the brainwave frequencies associated with sleep, which may help keep you from tossing and turning.

Some nuts got higher ratings when it came to stimulating the waves linked to slumber:

n Peanuts produced the strongest delta response, which is associated with deep sleep, the physically refreshing part of the sleep cycle, according to Breus.

n Pistachios caused the highest response in gamma waves, those linked to rapid eye movement (REM), the mental restoration stage of sleep.

5. PUT ON SOME SHADES

If you are using electronic devices at nights, it could definitely be affecting you getting some sleep. That's because the blue light emitted by computers, smartphones, tablets, and even televisions hinders production of melatonin, the hormone that signals your body that it's time to shut down.

The best option is to put all electronic devices away one hour before bedtime. But you could also invest in a pair of blue light-blocking glasses. People who wore these special shades for three hours before bedtime for two weeks had about a 58 per cent increase in their nighttime melatonin, according to a study from the University of Houston College of Optometry.

In real life that translated to participants being able to fall asleep faster, sleep better, and even increase sleep duration by 24 minutes a night, said study author Lisa Ostrin, OD, PhD.

In fact, several sleep experts are strongly behind this new trend in spectacles.

Other blue light-limiting strategies Ostrin recommends include applying special screen filters, using anti-reflective lenses to offset the effects of LED light, and switching devices into night-mode setting.

yourhealth@gleanerjm.com