The One Thing a Sleep Expert Wants You to Stop Doing
In the quest to get our recommended eight hours of sleep, we've turned down the temperature in the bedroom, keyed-up a soothing playlist, and tapped into some mindfulness apps to get in the zone, among several other assistors. But here's the thing: Doing all of these "tricks" is completely null if you aren't dropping other snooze-inhibiting habits.
The problem is that while we know things like catching up on the latest episode of This Is Us and answering emails well until the wee hours of the night don't pave the way for a more restful night's sleep, there's another important (and often overlooked) culprit that we need to nix in order to catch some meaningful z's. Below, Laurie Brodsky, N.D., Dirty Lemon's's resident expert on all things slumber, sounds off on what exactly this sleep saboteur is.
According to Brodsky, late-night eating and drinking (specifically, what you're eating and drinking) is the number one culprit for poor sleep. "Your body needs to physiologically switch from fight-or-flight mode, which is dominated by your sympathetic nervous system during the day, ideally, and into your rest-and-digest mode, controlled by your parasympathetic system, preferably at night." If you forgot these terms from anatomy class in high school, your sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity while the parasympathetic nervous system relaxes the body and controls many important functions (like digestion).
So which foods should you avoid in particular? Brodsky says eating sweets, drinking alcohol and coffee, and consuming a big meal in general late in the evening are all bodily stressors that delay the rest-and-digest mode. Sugar and caffeine both act as a stimulant (the last thing you want when you're trying to drift off), and while alcohol is a depressant, it could cause you to wake up throughout the night and feel more fatigued the next day. Alcohol also narrows your airway, resulting in symptoms of sleep apnea, even in those who don't otherwise present symptoms of the sleep disorder. All this being said, consider cutting down on alcohol (for more reasons than just getting a better night's sleep) and foregoing evening Starbucks runs. Brodsky also suggests having your last meal three hours before you plan to hit the pillow so your body isn't digesting food all night long.
However, if you're craving something late at night, she suggests sipping on Dirty Lemon's Sleep beverage ($65/case). "It supports your body with a balance of carefully selected ingredients that won't knock you out, but rather ease you into a more restful frame of mind from the inside out," she explains. "The aroma from the rose water in the sleep beverage alone can stimulate your senses, bringing calm to the mind. The magnesium perfectly rounds off the elixir with its calming effects on the mind and muscles, all without the laxative effect."
While this rosy beverage will help you get some shut-eye, it's important not to chug it all at once right before bed. According to Brodsky, this is another major culprit for poor sleep. "This rush of fluids, as opposed to small sips throughout the day, can put a lot of pressure on the kidneys to filter. So do yourself a favor and drink earlier rather than later to avoid having to wake up and go to the bathroom as you inadvertently disrupt your precious REM sleep."