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Make the Most of Your Shut-eye

By Riley Beggin, Contributing Writer

Most healthy adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but most people sleep less than seven hours. In fact, more than one third of Americans have reported that sleep deprivation interferes with their work and social life at least a few days each month. However, lack of quality sleep will hurt more than your social life — studies show that not getting enough sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other medical conditions.

Fortunately, there are several ways to help improve the quality of your sleep. These small changes can help you make the most of your shut-eye:

Eat well for improved energy
Eating a balanced diet can lead to improved energy during the day and contribute to healthy sleep cycles. A nutritious eating plan includes:

  • Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, especially dark green, red and orange vegetables
  • Consuming more whole grains, as well as fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Choosing a variety of proteins, including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and unsalted nuts

Don’t eat big meals late at night
Avoid rich, heavy, spicy or acidic foods within two hours of bedtime. People with reflux may want to stay upright for two to three hours after eating.

  • High-fat foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and that may keep you up.
  • Spicy or acidic foods may cause stomach trouble and heartburn, especially while laying down in bed.

Cut down on caffeine
Food or beverages with caffeine may disturb some people’s sleep.

  • Caffeine can take up to eight hours to wear off completely. If you are sensitive, limit eating food or drink with caffeine after lunch.
  • Some medicines, including some pain relievers, contain caffeine as well.

Avoid alcohol before bed, if you choose to drink at all
Small amounts of alcohol may be relaxing and help you fall asleep, but it actually interferes with staying asleep.

Avoid drinking fluids too close to bedtime
If the need to urinate wakes you up in the middle of the night, limit liquids before bedtime.

Quit smoking
The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant that may keep you awake and lead to lighter sleep overall. Heavy smokers also tend to wake up too early because of nicotine withdrawal.


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your guide to healthy sleep. Accessed: March 7, 2016.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How much sleep is enough? Accessed: March 7, 2016.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015. Accessed: March 7, 2016.

Last Updated: March 8, 2016