You've seen the infographic that shows the vast, devastating havoc too little sleep creates in your body. Perhaps you've also seen studies that show even a partial night's sleep deprivation can make you more insulin resistant, setting the stage for obesity and type 2 diabetes. I certainly don't need to describe the over-caffeinated, sluggish morning a crappy night's sleep can mercilessly deliver.
So can we all agree you should be getting 7-9 hours of high quality, uninterrupted sleep every night? If only getting sufficient sleep was as easy to actually get as it is to agree we need it. Luckily, these five strategies can help.
1. Exercise early.
"Staying active and exercising on a regular basis has been shown to improve sleeping problems of insomniacs and people with sleeping disorders," writes Krista Styker. "And not only can regular exercise significantly improve your sleep quality, it can also give you that pep that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and do things."
Burst training and weight resistance are my favorite early-morning exercises, but even a brisk 30-minute walk in the morning or early afternoon can improve sleep patterns.
Remember: Timing is crucial here. "To help with sleep, the best time to exercise is at least six hours before bedtime," says Dr. Frank Lipman, who notes working out too close to slumber can keep you tossing at night.
2. Limit caffeine.
Coffee qualifies as a food group in my mind, yet I'm well aware of its downsides. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever thrown back just one cup too many or downed that Americano too late in the day. Or you may just be a slow caffeine metabolizer, which makes you more sensitive to caffeine than most. It can make you wired, anxious and irritable.
"Caffeine can stay in your body 8-14 hours after consuming it," writes Lauren Noreen, who says "if you are having trouble sleeping, try completely eliminating it for a month and see if that improves your sleep." If that's not an option, stick to a cup or two of organic, mycotoxin-free coffee to get the benefits you deserve and sleep well.
After my morning java, I usually switch to green tea, which supports healthy gut bacteria and boosts metabolism. This wonder beverage contains theanine, which raises GABA, a calming brain chemical that combats depression, promotes good sleep and helps your body overcome food intolerance.
3. Develop a ritual
"One of the keys to getting a good night's sleep is preparation," writes Dr. Susan Blum. "A good nightly wind-down routine will not only help you to fall asleep, but will also help you to stay asleep. Begin at least an hour before bedtime by turning off any electronics ... The light from the screens and the stimulation of watching them literally keep your brain in the 'on' position."
My ritual involves chamomile tea, an Epsom salts bath and a good (but not great) novel. Yours might entail meditation, deep breathing, gentle yoga or reading an inspirational book. Find what ritual works for you and make it a habit.
4. Control stress.
Your stress hormone cortisol should be highest in the morning and gradually taper throughout the day. Ramped-up cortisol past its prime crashes serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that helps you feel calm and optimistic and sleep well. Eventually, your body gets tired of producing all that excess cortisol and your levels drop, causing you to feel sluggish, unmotivated and fatigued. A vicious "wired and tired" feeling ensues as stress impedes sleep and vice versa.
"Inadequate sleep weakens our ability to handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system, moderate our emotions, and think clearly," writes Krystelle Fournier. So try using breathwork and meditation to help control stress levels. A better night's sleep is one of many benefits from keeping stress levels in check.
5. Don't snack before bed.
When you go to bed full, you're not moving your diet or sleep in the right direction. First, it's not comfortable to try to sleep with a full stomach and many people toss and turn, or make frequent bathroom trips when they eat too late, all of which impede sleep.
Going to bed on a full stomach can also suppress ghrelin, a hormone you want to be highest at night. That's because ghrelin triggers the release of growth hormone (GH) when we sleep. GH helps your body heal, recover and make muscle and bone, so ghrelin is the last thing you want to shut down during sleep. Have a substantial dinner and close up the kitchen. If you still have 11PM hankerings, have a glass of water.
What one strategy would you add for a solid, uninterrupted night's slumber?
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