Tired of feeling tired? Having difficulty performing at your best? Struggling to lose weight or find yourself gaining pounds without eating more? It’s time to take a close look at your sleep habits.
Sleep is one of the most important things for you physical and mental health. While you’re sleeping your body is repairing itself. By getting quality sleep on a regular basis, your brain will function better, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll even be more likely to maintain an ideal weight or lose stubborn pounds.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re not getting enough quality rest, it can affect your health negatively in multiple ways. It’s a must for a strong immune system to prevent common infections and it also puts you at an increased risk for developing diabetes. Chronic sleep deficits have been linked to a higher risk of other serious health issues, like obesity, heart disease and stroke.
We think sleep it is one of the foundations of health and wellness and it’s important to get it right. If you aren’t there yet, you might think you’ve tried everything, but we’ll bet that there are at least a few tips here that will help you turn things around.
Light Exposure. Your circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, is controlled by hormones, and light exposure is the primary trigger that resets the clock. When you’re exposed to screens like your laptop, cell phone and TV, as well as indoor lights after dark, it delays the clock reset which is typically noticed when struggling to fall asleep at night. There have been numerous studies demonstrating the use of electronics is likely harming sleep time and quality. Research from the Mayo Clinic found that the light emitted from devices like tablets and smartphones can interfere with melatonin, which is the hormone that helps control our natural sleep/wake cycles. Experts advise shutting down those electronic gadgets, along with all bright lights, at least 60 minutes before bedtime. If your bedroom isn’t totally dark, you might want to start wearing an eye mask or invest in room darkening shades. During the first half of the day, get exposure to natural light. Research has revealed that exposure to bright sunlight for a couple hours may increase sleep efficiency by 80% and increase the length of time one sleeps too.
Keep it Cool. If you’ve ever tried to sleep without air conditioning on a hot summer’s night, you’re probably well-aware of how it can affect your sleep. Your bedroom should be a consistently cool 59ºF to 65ºF for optimal rest.
Regular Exercise. You’re probably aware by now that getting regular exercise is essential for good health, but did you know it can improve your sleep too? Just don’t get too physically active close to bedtime as it may have the opposite effect. Aim to get at least 20 minutes of cardio-based exercise a day – even a brisk walk can do the trick. One study involving older adults showed that exercise almost halved the amount of time it took for them to fall asleep at night.
Aromatherapy. Relatively inexpensive and requiring little effort, aromatherapy has been proven to offer many healing benefits, including improving sleep. Essential oils can influence parts of the brain that control one’s mood and internal clock, affecting the quality of sleep. While there are multiple oils that can help, lavender essential oil is considered to be one of the best. Place a few drops onto a tissue placed underneath your pillow or use a diffuser. Sandalwood, clary sage, and chamomile are also known to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep too.
Magnesium. Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is a sign that your body may be lacking magnesium. A study conducted in 2012 found this important mineral is necessary for many functions, including allowing your brain to relax enough so that you can get a good night's sleep.
Watch Your Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption. Some people are highly affected by caffeine and may have to cut it out completely to enjoy a better night’s sleep, but most find that limiting intake to the morning hours, say up until 10 a.m., will ensure it doesn’t interfere with their rest. While alcohol isn’t a stimulant, it does affect your REM sleep which can interfere with the quality of your rest. While tolerances vary, women are generally advised to consume no more than one drink daily, and two per day for men, although it may be even better to avoid it altogether.
Establish a Bedtime Routine. We’re all creatures of habit, and by creating a bedtime routine it will help your body shift into “sleep mode.” You might want to try taking a warm bath or shower an hour before bed, followed by performing some gentle stretches and perhaps sipping some herbal tea. Practicing deep breathing exercises or meditation is also a great way to help your body relax and calm the mind for a better night’s rest.