What to Eat To Get Your Sleep Back On Track
Seeing the link made me laugh for a couple of reasons. First, Brad links to food articles that range from recipes for cooking Kale to pictures of mile-high sandwiches from New York delis. I’ve eaten Kale. I’ve eaten at the Carnegie Deli (Brad’s apparent favorite). Deli is better. If you told me that a dish of Kale would add two days onto my normal lifespan and that a Pastrami sandwich from the Carnegie Deli would reduce my lifespan by two days, I would choose the sandwich, hands down. I don’t know what the over under would have to be on that score before I would choose Kale.
The other reason I had to laugh is that the article reminded me of when I was frantically researching the topic of “sleep disorders” because I was convinced that I was suffering from one.
Note: If you actually are suffering from a sleep disorder, I am sorry. You may not want to read any more of this post. I am not going to make fun of people who suffer such things, but you may grow to despise me before you get to the end.
My research took place many years ago. The Internet was available, but it wasn’t the treasure-trove of medical journals, old wives tales, home remedies and 24/7 Prayer Request hotlines that it is today. So, in addition to my online investigation, I was asking other people for advice.
I got lots of advice regarding what to eat / not eat. What to do / not do in the (1 to 3) hours before going to bed. What temperature to set the thermostat at, how many blankets to use, the type of pillow to lay on and the type of underwear / pajamas I should wear / not wear to bed.
One friend told me that he had been suffering from sleep disorders for years and that the only sure-fire remedy involved the periodic use of a sleeping pill. He added that some over-the-counter meds might help, but that prescription solutions were the way to go. He even offered to introduce me to his doctor.
I didn’t want to go down the medication road, so I suggested that maybe my particular disorder wasn’t yet that severe. Unconvinced, and expressing genuine concern, he began:
“What is your nighttime routine?”
“I normally read for a while before deciding to go to sleep.”
Him, still concerned: “How long do you lie awake once you’ve decided that you want to go to sleep?“
Me, truly serious: “Sometimes up to 10 or 15 minutes!”
Him. No. Longer. Concerned. At. All: “Whaaaaat the…?”
I explained that I had been used to always being able to fall asleep as soon as I wanted to fall asleep. No lying awake stuff for me. Lights out. Head down. Zzzzz’s.
My friend explained that sometimes, if he was lucky, a sleeping pill would take effect within 10 – 15 minutes, and he urged me to never use the phrase “sleep disorder” to describe my condition again.
Still convinced that I was suffering from something serious, I continued my research. A couple of weeks later, I stumbled across a documentary on sleep and sleep disorders. I watched as they explored various conditions and various approaches to dealing with said conditions. Finally, near the end of the show, one of the experts caught my attention:
“Oftentimes, the problem people have falling asleep can be traced to the time they go to bed. Your body loves a routine. If you go to bed at a different time on weekends, for example, than you do during the week, you might develop a sleep disorder. The best thing you can do is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.”
It was as if he was speaking just to me. I was getting up at 5:00 am for work but sleeping until 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays. That had to be the cause of my malady.
The following Saturday, I got up at 5:00 am. While pouring a cup of coffee, my wife (who gets up very early) asked: “why are you up this early?” I guess that that wasn’t the kind of question that was meant to be answered:
“I was watching this show on PBS about sleep disorders and one of the experts was talking about how important it is…”
“You’re talking. Why are you talking?”
By this time the cats were staring at me and the dog might have been growling.
“No, you’re not talking to me at 5:00 am. If you want to be up, be up somewhere else. We (her and the nesting animals) have a routine, and it doesn’t involve talking!”
I might be exaggerating a bit, you know, for effect, but that was the gist of the conversation.
Oddly enough, the practice cured me of my “disorder.” In fact, I have discovered by trial and error that I can sleep in until 6:00 am on weekends with no ill-effect. I still get up, get my coffee and make myself scarce. And, I still avoid conversation until one is started by someone else. These days, our dog requires that I sit on a particular couch with her for 15-20 minutes before heading to the family room and my laptop. She’s still a puppy; if our previous dogs are any indication, she will stop needing that bit of attention soon.