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We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our “sleep health” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan. Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with chronic sleep debt, we’ve forgotten what being really, truly rested feels like.

To further complicate matters, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, night shifts, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interferes with our circadian rhythm.

Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to assess not only where you fall on the “sleep needs spectrum,” but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress. The information below is adapted from


  • Tryptophan causes sleepiness which are built from dietary proteins. Best nighttime snacks are ones that contain both a carbohydrate and protein (like cereal and milk).
  • A diet low in fiber and high in saturated fats decrease the amount of deep, slow-wave sleep. Too much sugar results in more midnight wake-ups. Alcohol disrupts sleep architecture so, even if you go to bed quicker, there are more nighttime arousals and less total sleep. A diet high in fiber and low in added sugars help you drift off fast and you may sleep as many 2 extra hours of sleep per week by decreasing sleep onset.
  • Caffeine lasts 5-6 hours so CUT OUT the early afternoon coffee or try going decaf.
  • Melatonin helps circadian rhythm regulation which can be used as a nighttime sleep aid on occasion. Daily light exposure also modulates circadian rhythm. When you are post-call or going home from night float, WEAR SUNGLASSES. Even brief exposure to bright sunlight will make it hard to take that morning nap.
  • Blue light from tablets, computers, phones, and TV reset your melatonin levels. WEAR ORANGE GLASSES if using computers at night. Here is a cheap (but not so attractive) pair:
  • Sleep improves your cognitive ability. For example, sleep improves split second decisions by 4%. Napping after learning a new task or content facilitates transfer of new skills to more permanent regions of the brain. It also helps clear out amyloid plaques!
  • Good sleep makes you less hungry. Sleeping regulates ghrelin (makes you hungry) and leptin (makes you feel full). You also end up craving more carbohydrates. This is why people who are sleep-deprived often gain weight.
  • It doesn’t matter when you hit the gym. People who work out regularly sleep better and longer than those who don’t.
  • You will be happier!!!

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