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How Nightcaps Can Rob You of Sleep

How Nightcaps Can Rob You of Sleep

“O gentle sleep … how have I frightened thee that thou no more will weigh my eyelids down?” Shakespeare’s 17 th century lament on lost sleep surely hits home to the 33% of folks today who experience mild to severe problems falling or staying asleep.

If you’re consistently sleep deprived (less than 7 to 8 hours nightly) you’re a candidate for memory problems, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression. And no matter what causes insomnia -- stress, anxiety or chronic pain, for example -- there’s a good chance that you’ve tried to beat it with a nightcap -- about 20% of American adults do. And sometimes it can work ... but most the time it doesn’t.

Researchers have discovered that it’s a very short-term solution; alcohol artificially KOs you and messes up your body’s mechanism that controls wakefulness and sleepiness. While a drink or two decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and increases your non-REM sleep patterns during the first half of the night, it creates chaos during the second half, popping you awake and deregulating your sleep cycle.

For healthy sleep: Get daily exercise (not within three hours of bedtime). Take an Epsom salt bath and then eat a banana -- the magnesium and potassium relaxes muscles and hot water chases away stress hormones. And make sure the bedroom is for two things only: sex and sleep. If that doesn’t work you can find a trained sleep therapist to help you get your ZZZs.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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