Sleep experts tell you what to do and what not to do

By Maiya Focht Health Reporter for Dailymail.Com

18:13 07 Jul 2024, updated 18:29 07 Jul 2024

When it comes to natural sleep aids, most of us are familiar with the old, common sense advice: Take a bath, avoid heavy meals, and try not to look at screens.

But experts say there are many more changes to your evening routine that you may be less familiar with.

Many of these changes involve avoiding certain behaviors that you have been exhibiting for most of your life.

For example, skipping a curry for dinner could make the difference between a disturbed night’s sleep and a restful one, Dr. Ankit Parekh, assistant professor of sleep medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told

Below, the sleep expert explains his top tips and tricks for a good night’s sleep without medical intervention.

Getting a good night’s sleep is easiest when you train your body to maintain a consistent rhythm. Some studies have shown that people who sleep around the same time every night are healthier, Dr. Parekh said

DO NOT eat chocolate or spicy foods, and do not do cardio training

First, choose your evening meal wisely.

You may know that eating late (after 8pm) is linked to weight gain and a higher risk of obesity.

But what you eat later in the evening can also affect your sleep. In particular, eating spicy or fatty foods in the hours before bed can lead to indigestion, better known as heartburn.

The symptoms, which include a feeling of acid rising from the stomach to the throat, can wake you up and disrupt your sleep quality.

Also, consider only drinking coffee in the morning. Research has shown that the stimulating effect of caffeine can last up to six hours after ingestion.

Dr. Ankit Parekh investigates how people cope with sleep apnea and the consequences of poor sleep

This means your body can be hyper-alert as you prepare for bed, making it difficult to wind down. Dr. Parekh recommends cutting out the java before 3 p.m.

And while you might think a few beers will put you to sleep, make no mistake: it’s been known to decrease the quality of your sleep.

When people drink alcohol, it reduces the amount of time they spend in the deeper stages of sleep — generally the time your body needs to recover, according to the Sleep Foundation. So missing out on this stage could mean missing out on the health benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Drinking alcohol regularly also increases your risk of sleep apnea, a condition in which people stop breathing during sleep.

Alcohol can cause the throat and tongue muscles to relax, which can block oxygen flow. This causes people to wake up repeatedly, making for poor sleep.

While exercise is generally considered good for sleep, it’s best to avoid intense cardio workouts after 7 p.m., Dr. Parekh advises.

That’s because cardiovascular exercise can increase your heart rate and body temperature, making it harder to fall asleep quickly.

Dr. Parekeh also stressed the importance of avoiding all screens in the hour before bed, whether it’s your cell phone, laptop or tablet.

Turn on your air conditioning, clean your room and take a few deep breaths

The most important thing about your sleep environment is that it should be dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature. But you can also practice mindfulness, meditation or yoga before bed if that helps you, experts say

With a few simple tricks you can make your bedroom as sleep-friendly as possible.

If you have air conditioning, set it to the ideal, sleep-inducing temperature of 18-22° C (66-72° F), says Dr. Parekh.

Also make sure your bedroom is a relaxing, uncluttered environment.

A 2017 study of 1,052 volunteers found that tidying up the bedroom helps people with insomnia fall asleep faster and more consistently.

Research suggests that stretching, mindfulness, and breathing exercises also help calm the mind before bed.

As for your evening routine, start winding down two hours before you go to bed.

Whatever your specific routine, following these steps consistently will signal to your body that it’s time to wind down, and you’ll naturally find yourself getting sleepy, says Dr. Zweig.

“We need to transition to sleep slowly,” Dr. Zweig said. This means going to bed at about the same time every night.

Research has shown that people with consistent sleep patterns tend to be healthier, Dr. Parekh says.

Surprisingly, experts say it’s not just the things you do or don’t do at night that affect your sleep.

Getting plenty of sunlight during the day helps maintain your body’s circadian rhythm — the natural cycle of hormones that regulate your alertness, Dr. Parekh says.

Exposing your body to sunlight during the day will naturally wake you up, which will make you feel tired when the lights go out in the evening.

If you do all of these, you’ll likely get a good night’s sleep, says Dr. Parekh.

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