Beverages And Substances Can Interfere With Sleep

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By surtr on 2013-05-05 13:50:53

Caffeine: As you no doubt know from experience, caffeine boosts alertness. It does this by blocking the effect of adenosine, a chemical produced by neurons in the brain that promotes sleep. As a result, caffeine lengthens the time it takes to fall asleep and reduces the amount of deep sleep you get. In addition, caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it can further disrupt sleep by increasing the need to urinate during the night. Individuals vary greatly in their sensitivity to caffeine; you may need to experiment to determine your own threshold. Caffeine’s half-life-the time it takes for half of it to clear your system is three to five hours, so it’s still active in your body long after you’ve had your last caffeinated drink of the day. Avoid heavy overall intake (more than two or three cups of coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda a day) and curtail consumption after 5 or 6 p.m. If you try this and still have trouble sleeping, you may benefit from even stricter limits, such as cutting down to one cup before 2 p.m. or even foregoing caffeine altogether. Two final caffeine points: Be aware that in addition to beverages, chocolate and certain cold medications (check the label) can contain significant amounts of caffeine. Also, your body can become dependent on caffeine, so if you’re a heavy consumer cut back gradually or you may experience headaches, irritability, and fatigue.

Alcohol : In the sleep world, alcohol is the wolf in sheep’s clothing; a nightcap may help you drop off, but this benefit is more than offset by the poor-quality sleep that ensues. Alcohol tends to decrease sleep latency, meaning that you fall asleep quicker, and you’re likely to wake up more during the latter half of the night because decreasing alcohol levels fragment sleep. The fact that alcohol is also a diuretic further adds to sleep disruption, since you may have to get up to go to the bathroom. Finally, because alcohol relaxes throat muscles and interferes with brain control mechanisms, it can worsen snoring and other nocturnal breathing problems, sometimes to a dangerous extent For all these reasons, you’re liable to feel worn out when the alarm goes off if you drink to help yourself fall asleep.To prevent alcohol from interfering with sleep, limit yourself to one or two drinks a day, and finish drinking at least three hours before bedtime. The body metabolizes alcohol faster than caffeine, so your cutoff point can be a few hours closer to bedtime.

Smoking or chewing tobacco: Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant that speeds your heart rate, raises blood pressure, and incites fast brain wave activity that interferes with sleep. In people addicted to nicotine, a few hours without it is enough to induce withdrawal symptoms; the craving can then wake them up at night. People who kick the habit fall asleep more quickly and wake less often during the night. Sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue may occur during the initial withdrawal period, but even during this time, many former users report improvements in sleep. Quitting also offers a host of other health benefits, including a lower risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Find the right balance of fluids: Beverages with caffeine and alcohol are a bad idea before bed, but that doesn’t mean you should curtail all fluid intake. You want to find the right balance if you drink too much liquid in the evening, you may wake up to use the bathroom. On the other hand, if you eliminate liquids altogether for several hours before bedtime, you’re liable to become dehydrated during the night and wake up dry and thirsty. Use common sense. If you wake up often to go to the bathroom, cut back on evening fluids. If you’re often thirsty at night, have something to drink before bedtime.

Avoid foods that give you heartburn: What you eat, as well as how much and when, can affect sleep. Heartburn is the most common problem; lying down makes it worse, and it can wake you up during the night. General indigestion and feeling bloated also can impede sleep. The goal is to have the stomach’s most difficult digestive work wrapped up long before you go to bed. Avoid fatty and spicy foods that can give you indigestion, don’t eat too much, and make sure to allow several hours between dinner and bedtime. If you continue to have heartburn, elevate the head of your bed to prevent the reflux of acidic stomach contents while you are sleeping. Just using extra pillows isn’t enough. You can also ask your doctor whether you’re likely to benefit from heartburn medication. At the same time, you don’t want to go to bed hungry and have your stomach growling. If you find this is often the case, have a light snack an hour or two before bedtime.

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