Hooray! You got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night. But then why did you wake up this morning feeling like roadkill? Facing the day refreshed isn't as simple as logging those elusive 7 to 8 hours in dreamland. We've got six surprising reasons you're not feeling your best—and simple fixes. You read your Kindle before bed. People who read before bed using an iPad or similar device find it harder to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than those who curl up with a printed book, according to a recent Harvard study. The reason? The blue light emitted from the Kindle suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, which controls your sleep and wake cycles, says Robert Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, an Arizona sleep medicine specialist and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day. Translation: When your melatonin levels are out of whack, you probably aren't sleeping as soundly as you think you are. He recommends shutting down all electronic devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, eReaders) 90 minutes before bed. Also, move your cell phone out of the room; even if it's on airplane mode, a phone emits enough light to interfere with sleep, says Sylvia Morris, MD, MPH, an internist in Atlanta. You sleep in a bad position. Waking up with a sore back? It may be from sleeping on your side all night, which can create significant flexion at the hip, says Benjamin Domb, MD, founder of the American Hip Institute. If you're one of the 57% of Americans who slumber in this position, it's a good idea to sleep with a pillow between your legs to maintain proper hip alignment. "Hip injuries are some of the most common, yet trickiest, sleep injuries because the pain from the injury often shows itself in a different part of the body—like in the lower back," says Domb. (Here's how 3 common sleep positions affect your health.) Your pillow sucks. That huge fluffy pillow may seem like luxury, but it can cause massive pain. "Sleeping with your head propped up pulls your spine out of alignment—it's like walking around for 8 hours during the day with your neck tilted down," explains Shawn Stevenson, BS, FDN, founder of the Advance Integrative Health Alliance and author of the 2016 book Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success. Use a pillow that's soft but has a supportive foam core, like the Intelli-Gel pillow ($150, amazon.com). You grind your teeth at night. If you wake up with a headache, it's most likely because you've been clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth overnight, says Kathy Gruver, PhD, a massage therapist in Santa Monica, CA. Research shows that massage can help with symptoms, so apply some gentle pressure and/or a warm, damp cloth to the jaw area right before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up in the AM to help break the cycle. Also consider seeing your dentist for a mouth guard, which keeps your teeth from grinding down. You have a nightcap. It's true that booze can send you off to dreamland quickly, since alcohol does have a sedative effect. But it also disrupts your normal sleep cycle, says Aaron Clark, MD, a family medicine physician at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. In a 2015 Australian study, people who downed orange juice mixed with vodka as a bedtime drink showed more alpha brain activity while they snoozed, which meant they weren't getting deep, restorative sleep. Women are particularly susceptible to sleep disruptions from alcohol because we metabolize it faster, according to the National Sleep Foundation, so we're bound to wake up sooner. An occasional glass of spirits won't hurt, but to make sure you're getting quality z's, limit yourself to one drink a night and have it a couple of hours before bedtime. You have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Half of all adult women have some type of sleep apnea, according to a 2012 study. (Women between the ages of 20 and 44 have a 25% chance of having sleep apnea, which also affects 56% of women ages 45 to 54 and 75% of women ages 55 to 70.) With this condition, "patients briefly stop breathing multiple times through the night, which leads to poor sleep quality," explains Clark. Sleep apnea is especially common in women as they go through perimenopause, when they mistakenly assume that their frequent night awakenings are a result of hot flashes. As a result, you'll often wake up exhausted, even if you've theoretically gotten plenty of sleep. Ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist. The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is via a sleep study—at-home devices can pick up only severe cases. Mild cases can often be treated with weight loss and alcohol avoidance before bedtime, but if you've got a moderate to severe case, you'll need to use a device like a CPAP, an oxygen tube under the nose that emits mild air pressure to keep the airways open.
What you eat can drastically affect how you sleep, so in order to get a good night's rest, it is essential to choose foods that calm your mind and body rather than those that stimulate you. Certain types of foods will naturally promote rest and relaxation, particularly those that contain tryptophan, the amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that slows nerve activity within your brain. Tryptophan Since tryptophan is a precursor of other neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin and melatonin, eating foods that are rich in tryptophan will help you feel relaxed and sleepy. Foods such as turkey, hummus, lentils, and kelp are naturally high in tryptophan and also contain nutrients that provide a host of other health benefits. In addition, bananas not only contain tryptophan, but also potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants. Fresh and dried cherries are also one of the only natural food sources of melatonin. Read more of my healthy diet recommendations by visiting www.dreliaz.org. Carbohydrates Foods that are rich in starchy, high-glycemic carbohydrates may also promote better sleep, as they help to stimulate the release of insulin and tryptophan and cause these sleep-inducing substances to enter the brain. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, carbohydrates that are on the high end of the glycemic index scale, meaning they increase the body's sugar levels rapidly, encourage sleep when eaten at least four hours before bedtime. Foods such as Jasmine rice, potatoes, carrots, corn, puffed cereal, and honey are some of the healthiest choices of simple carbohydrates. Calcium Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Certain combinations, such as whole-grain cereal with milk, a peanut butter sandwich, or crackers with cheese contain both carbohydrates and calcium that work together to relax the mind and body. Calcium itself is so beneficial in helping you sleep, as it is a natural muscle relaxant that can also help you manage stress levels. Timing Eating these various foods calms your nervous system and triggers a sleep-inducing hormonal response, helping you rest better at night. However, timing is everything, as eating a large meal too late or eating right before bed time can actually have the opposite effect and keep you up at night. It is best to eat these foods later in the day or at least one hour before bed time since it takes about one hour for tryptophan from food sources to reach the brain. Above all else, it is important to avoid rich, heavy and high-fat foods within two hours of bed time, as they require a lot of work to digest, and may cause stomach trouble and heartburn. It is also wise to avoid drinking too many liquids, including water, juice, tea or other fluids, as this may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, such as soda, coffee or caffeinated teas not only act as diuretics, but will also keep you stimulated and make falling asleep that much more difficult. For more recommendations on relaxation-promoting diet and supplementation tips, visitwww.dreliaz.org. By Dr. Isaac Eliaz via articlecity.com About The Author Dr. Isaac Eliaz is a respected author, lecturer, researcher, product formulator, and clinical practitioner. He has been a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980s. Dr. Eliaz is a frequent guest lecturer on integrative medical approaches to health, immune enhancement, and cancer prevention and treatment.