If you go to your doctor complaining that you no longer remember the cat’s name and you forgot your dentist appointment twice, he might give you a short quiz, pat you on the back and tell you that you’re fine — we’re all getting older. However, a major study from sleep researchers found that the amount and quality of sleep you get significantly affects memory, particularly the type of memory that helps you remember facts and events. Here are four simple ways to improve your sleep for better health.
1. Check your meds if you can’t sleep
Doctors are always supposed to ask you what medications you’re taking (or know by looking at your chart), but we’ve found they rarely do. So when you complain of insomnia, they may not think to connect your sleeplessness with some drug you’re taking.
- Yet many medications can interfere with sleep. These include beta blockers, thyroid medication, certain antidepressants like the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), decongestants, corticosteroids and medications with caffeine.
- If you’re seeing your doctor about insomnia, make a list of all drugs you’re taking — including over-the-counter medications and herbal and nutritional supplements. List the dosages you’re taking, too.
2. Boil some lettuce for a good night’s sleep
It sounds yucky (and might make a bit of a mess) but lettuce contains a compound called lectucarium, which works similarly to opium in your brain. Since opium is a bit difficult to get these days (not to mention illegal), try this:
- Simmer four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint, strain, and sip just before bed.
- Any kind of lettuce works, so go for the cheapest.
3. Calm those restless legs with a bar of soap
It’s a common cause of insomnia: you go to bed, tired and ready to get a solid eight hours. Just as you’re drifting off, however, your legs jerk. And they continue to do this throughout the night, either keeping you from falling asleep or waking you up. While there is now an approved prescription medication for restless legs syndrome (there seems to be a drug for everything these days) side effects include confusion, dizziness, nausea and hallucinations. We have a better solution: slip a bar of soap under your legs and the restlessness should disappear in about three to five minutes
- It must be plain soap, not a deodorant bar.
- The high magnesium content of the soap help. And, indeed, research links low levels of magnesium to restless legs. In one study of 10 patients with restless legs syndrome, those taking 150 to 300 milligrams of elemental magnesium and 300 to 600 milligrams of calcium a half hour before bed woke less often and experienced fewer jerks after taking the supplements for four to six weeks.
4. Take a vitamin for better sleep
If your restless legs are keeping you awake, by all means try the bar of soap recommended above. But also pop a B vitamin.
- In one small study, researchers found that women with restless legs syndrome were deficient in folic acid, which is required for proper brain and nerve function. Supplementing with this vitamin, however, improved symptoms.
- Take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid a day, along with a 50-milligram B complex supplement to maintain a balance of B vitamins.
A good night’s sleep is essential to maintain your memory and overall health. Try these tips tonight and you can have a sounder sleep in no time.