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Exactly How I Changed My Diet To Sleep Better
"Since I was a little kid, I've had a very hard time sleeping. It would take me 1½ to 2 hours to fall asleep, and I was accustomed to waking up at all hours of the night. I grew up watching my mother do the same thing, so it didn't seem that odd to me. I just chalked it up to having a busy brain. But as I grew older, I realized it's not normal, and when my mother and sister passed away a few years ago and I became the oldest person in the family, I started to take my health more seriously.
I found the solution kind of by accident. I had a client tell me during the Olympics that Aly Raisman and other pro athletes drink tart cherry juice every night because it has very high natural melatonin content. Even though I was skeptical, I started drinking a product called Cheribundi and watching a meditation video as I was going to sleep. About 2 weeks into it, I realized I was falling asleep as soon as I lay down. That had never happened in my entire life. I now drink about 8 ounces of the juice around 8 PM and head to bed around 9:30. I fall asleep within minutes and stay asleep for 4 to 5 hours at a time."
—Cynthia Srednicki, 46, Coconut Creek, FL
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"My sleep problems started in college. It got really tough to sleep through the night, mainly because I had lots of nightmares. People would tell me I had bags under my eyes, and I thought it was just normal. I didn't know I could do anything about it. I couldn't sleep for 7 years of my life.
"Around 2008 or 2009, my body stopped being able to tolerate dairy completely, and at one point, gluten become intolerable. Every time I'd eat a piece of toast, I'd break out in hives. I quit eating gluten and dairy, and I was surprised to find that I no longer had the nightmares that were causing insomnia. I'd be tired and I'd just drift off—that never used to happen.
Sometimes I'll have a taste of cake or mac and cheese, and I immediately end up with nightmares again. I blame food intolerance 100% on why I couldn't sleep for years."
—Krystal Covington, 32, Denver, CO
"I endured night after night after night of not sleeping. I tried every over-the-counter medication, and nothing would put me asleep. People told me that I looked like zombie. My eyes were sunken in, and I had bags under them.
"I started seeing a cognitive behaviorist for sleep therapy once a week. I had to keep a really detailed sleep journal on what time I lay down, what I ate before bed, whether or not I woke up during the night, how long I was up for, etc.
My therapist and I noticed in my journal that if I was up late at night and I had a piece of toast, I would go back to sleep. She also had me cut back to one cup of coffee (from three), and to drink it before noon. And she told me not to eat after 8 PM, and that I should eat dinner from 7 to 8 PM. I was so surprised when it worked."
—Taylor McIntyre, 27, Queens, NY
"My insomnia problems stemmed from stress and anxiety, and using mindfulness techniques and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) helped a little. But what really made the most difference was changing my routine—I started getting up at the same time every day and made sure I got out in the sunlight 2 hours after waking up—along with my diet.
The first thing I cut out was wine. I found that I was self-medicating with it just to dull my senses. I also cut out caffeine after 11 AM, made my meals smaller and lighter, and ate at the same time every day. Dinner went from pepperoni pizza and a beer—which would keep me up—to healthier foods, like a baked sweet potato with black beans, a little bit of cheese, and leafy greens for magnesium. Now I sleep so well, it's almost shocking."
—Brook Packard, 55, Rye, NY
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"I realized that I was drinking a lot of water in the evening, and it was causing me to wake up and use the restroom multiple times. It was super frustrating. I run quite a bit, and one of the biggest reasons for wanting a more consistent sleep pattern was to improve my recovery. I decided to set a 'nighttime alarm' 2 hours before bed, and once it went off I wouldn't eat or drink anything else for the day.
It was a difficult transition to make. I don't like to go to bed with any amount of hunger, so not eating 2 hours before bed was a little bit of a challenge. It took me about a month or so to get used to it. I eventually weaned myself off of the bedtime alarm, and the sleep problem took care of itself."
—Kyle Kranz, 29, Rapid City, SD
"When I got divorced, the first thing that left me was the ability to fall asleep. I had insomnia out of guilt, loneliness, and sadness. I went to the doctor and got Ambien, but I didn't like what it did to me. I then tried Xanax, but when my 30-day supply ran out, I couldn't sleep at all.
MORE:10 Silent Signals You're Way Too Stressed
Then a friend told me about how he found cannabis to be the best thing for his sleep. I got my medical marijuana card and started experimenting. Now, I make my own edibles, like cannabis gummies, cookies, and brownies. I even juice the leaves. Before bed, I'll use the vape pen, and that makes me drowsy and takes away all the dark thoughts, all the anxiety. Then I eat a strong edible, which has a delayed effect.
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