What Experts Want You to Know About Sleep

We asked sleep gurus to share their top tips for optimizing those zzz's. Their suggestions may surprise you.

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Cropped shot of a young man sleeping in his bed

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Even with all the social media hype and published research about sleep, most folks still aren’t getting enough. If you’re guilty of taking those zzz’s for granted, you will want to check out what these sleep experts have to say.

Who Are the Sleep Pros?

The experts at Mohr Results are the ones to school you on sleep — literally. Chris and Kara Mohr have bundled oodles of evidence-based research into a web-based course to help folks improve their sleep habits.

Karman Meyer is a registered dietitian and author. She has investigated the vital connection between sleep and food in her book, Eat to Sleep: What to Eat and When to Eat It for a Good Night's Sleep — Every Night.

Top Tips for the Sleep of Your Dreams

We asked these sleep gurus to share their top three tips for optimizing sleep. Their suggestions may surprise you.

1. Make sleep a priority.

A lot happens while you drift off to dreamland; just like with proper nutrition and exercise, you get out what you put in. “Sleep is the only way your body and brain can recover,” says Chris Mohr. Recognizing just how important sleep is for your overall health is the logical first step to making it a priority every night.

2. Cut back on caffeine.

"Caffeine may be lingering longer than you think," warns Meyer. That afternoon coffee or energy drink, or even caffeinated sodas or teas before bed, may be interfering with your zzz’s at night.” Caffeine is a stimulant, but it affects everyone differently, so if you’re trying to solve your sleep woes, consider how much caffeine you consume during the day.

So how much is too much? Meyer breaks it down: “The recommended daily limit for caffeine is 400 milligrams and it’s best to cut off consumption of the stimulant at least eight hours before your usual bedtime. Keep in mind that if you’re dependent on caffeine to get through the day, it may be time to consider the foods you’re consuming on a daily basis to ensure they are providing your body with the energy it needs, rather than relying on a stimulant.“

3. Drink responsibly.

It’s a common misconception that alcohol helps you sleep. In actuality, this depressant only disrupts the flow of your normal sleep rhythms. For this reason, it’s best to stop drinking hours prior to bedtime. “Make last call at least two hours before bed,” suggests Mohr. “Alcohol interferes with quality sleep, so lay off the sauce.”

4. Snack it up.

Meyer is helping to set the record straight on one of the most popular nutrition myths out there. “You can snack before bed and still sleep well,” she says. “A snack before bed may be just the thing you need to sleep through the night, especially if you eat dinner about five to six hours before going to bed. Having a light snack that contains some protein, carbohydrates and fat provides the right balance of macronutrients to keep us feeling satisfied for an extended period. Try some whole-grain crackers and cheese, homemade popcorn, or a banana with nut butter.”

5. Set the mood.

Environmental factors have a huge influence on sleep quality. Make efforts to adjust lighting and temperature in your sleep space accordingly. “Make your room dark and cool,” advises Mohr. “If you can see your hand in front of your face, it's too light and ideal temperatures are between 62 and 68 degrees F.”

6. Embrace carbs.

Bedtime is not the time to be carb phobic. According to Meyer, eating high-quality carbohydrates like those found in this recipe can actually help with sleep. “Foods like whole-grain bread and pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates and will prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and dropping off quickly, which can leave people feeling tired. Rather, complex carbohydrates will give you sustained energy during the day and the improved sleep at night.”

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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