Good Sleep Habits Create Good Health
Powerful research continues to show the importance of sleep in relation to weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, cognitive performance, food cravings, and more.
Insufficient sleep is much more damaging to health than most people realize.
Your body uses sleep to regulate many functions including body temperature, memory processing, blood sugar balance, stress management, and metabolism. Studies show that those who routinely sleep fewer than 5 hours per night have higher rates of insulin resistance and obesity. It’s estimated that 30 to 40 percent of Americans are getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night.
Pay more attention to your sleep and you can improve your health. Here’s how:
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol.
- Reduce stress as much as possible.
- Eat meals and snacks at regular times.
- If hunger tends to keep you awake, opt for a small protein based snack 1-2 hours before bedtime. Otherwise, stop eating three or more hours before bedtime.
- Avoid over-the-counter medicines that will interfere with sleep or act as stimulants.
- Plan for at least three hours between finishing your workout and sleeping. Intense workouts too close to bedtime can disturb your sleep.
- Allow your body to find its natural sleep rhythms. Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day.
- Learn what amount of sleep leaves you feeling your best. Experts say most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but the exact amount varies from person to person.
- Eliminate clutter and keep your bedroom cool and dark.
- Use your bedroom for sleeping and romantic activities only.
- Prepare for sleep. Eliminate all stimuli two hours before you go to bed. Establish a before-bed ritual so your body can effectively prepare to sleep.
Your Before-Bed Ritual
Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. Include calming, nurturing, and restful activities that you will come to associate with going to sleep.
There are many enjoyable and relaxing activities that can become part of your nighttime routine. Some ideas:
Calm down and relax with a cup of hot tea. Look for teas that contain chamomile, valerian, lavender, lemon balm, St. John’s wort and peppermint. You can find blends made especially for bedtime.
Put your feet up and indulge some light reading from an actual book—avoid electronic gadgets close to bedtime. Research shows that the light emitted from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses sleep-hormone levels.
Practice self-care with a hot towel scrub. Fill your bathroom sink with hot water. Dip your hand towel or washcloth in the water and wring it out. While the towel is still hot and steamy, begin to scrub the skin gently. Do one section of your body at a time working toward the heart. Scrub until the skin becomes slightly pink or until each part becomes warm. As the cloth starts to cool, dip it in the warm water. This can be a reflective and nurturing part of your day, especially if you do it by candlelight and add a drop or two of essential oil.
Treat yourself to a soothing bedtime facial and mask. Use a nice warm washcloth to open your pores and then apply a prepared mask or make your own.
Enjoy aromatherapy, the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Sleep-promoting essential oils include lavender, vetiver, roman chamomile, ylang ylang, bergamot, sandalwood, marjoram, and cedarwood. Apply the oils topically to the back of your neck or bottom of your feet using a carrier oil, like sweet almond oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil, to dilute the essential oil. You can also use a diffuser set by your bedside.
Keep a gratitude journal. Before lights out, take a few minutes to jot down three things for which you are grateful.
If you are sleep-deprived, speak to your primary care provider to make sure there are no underlying issues or sleep disorders interfering with your sleep.
Work with your Vida Health Coach to set some goals around improving your sleep habits.