The way I see it, there are two ways you can start your day: happy and well-rested or groggy and zombie-like. Which one are you? The difference between the two really boils down to the night before. The quality of your sleep is closely related to the quality of your day. Like nutrition and exercise, it's also a major factor that affects your health.
Adequate sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. It has far more benefits than just getting rid of dark circles and boosting your energy. Here are some other important reasons to get enough sleep.
1. It improves learning and memory.
Have you noticed how when you lack sleep, you can't focus? You might also have mood swings, feel grumpy or depressed, and have a hard time focusing or taking in new information.
During sleep, your brain is preparing itself for new information, a process called "consolidation." Therefore, it enables you to retain new information better. Adequate sleep also improves your ability to focus, make decisions, and makes you happier.
2. Sleep lowers your risk of accidents.
While there are other kinds of accidents drowsiness can cause, driving is one of the main and higher risk ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in every 25 drivers have reported falling asleep while driving.
Drowsiness makes you less aware of your surroundings. It also makes you lose focus. Thus, it increases the risk of accidents.
3. It reduces health risks.
Lack of sleep also negatively affects your immune function, so you are also increasing the risk for illnesses. Some studies have also shown a relationship between lack of sleep and weight gain.
4. Sleep improves skin quality.
Like water, sleep is nourishment for the skin. A study at a university in Cleveland showed that people with poor sleep quality showed more signs of aging than those who get better sleep. THe American Academy of Sleep Medicine also links lack of sleep to faster biological aging.
Now you know how important sleep is. But what if you struggle to get enough? Stretching at night relieves tension, relaxing your body and mind.
Here are some stretches to help you sleep at night:
Standing forward fold
With your feet about 6 inches apart, lean your upper body forward at the hips. You can try to touch your toes or the ground. This position increases blood flow to your head and stretches your spine. Hold for 30 seconds.
Seated forwarded fold
Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs stretched forward. Form a letter L with your body by stretching your arms up. Then slowly bend from your hips, trying to reach your toes, and put your face down. Try to reach as far as you can. This is a great stretch for your hamstrings, back, and calves. Hold for 30 seconds.
Legs up the wall
With your back and butt on the floor, stretch your legs out against the wall. This targets the glutes and hamstrings. Having your legs up allows the blood flow to return to the heart and reduces inflammation. That's why people with strains, sprains, or leg injuries are encouraged to elevate their legs too. Hold for 30 seconds.
Lunge with arms extended
Start by standing straight, then lunge one leg forward. The opposite leg should be straight at the back with the foot slightly tilted out. Keep your back straight and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor. Do the same with the other leg.
This pose stretches and strengthens the shoulders, neck, back, and legs. Hold for 30 seconds.
Guidelines for stretching
Proper execution of stretches is vital. Wrong execution might do more harm than good, so if you are unsure, you might want to consult a professional. However, these poses are fairly easy. Follow these guidelines for stretching:
- Try to hold each stretch or pose for about 30 seconds (this is a light stretch). You can also gradually increase how long you hold a pose. There's no need to rush.
- Breathe deeply and consciously.
- Don't bounce to avoid injury.
- Don't stretch "cold" muscles. Loosen up before stretching by jogging in place or doing a couple of jumping jacks before you start your first stretch.
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