I thought it was pertinent to talk about sleep today, since we spring ahead into Daylight Savings Time this weekend. Does the time change affect you? It sure does me, and it doesn’t matter if I’m springing ahead, or falling back!
For a lot of people, especially women, sleeping through the night is something that they have said “good-bye” to. Is that you? Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?
Do not fear, I have five tips for better sleep for you today!
The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing
Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.
Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.
Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program?
OMGosh! – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???
Knowing this, it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:
- To restore our body and mind: Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
- To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
- To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.
So how much sleep do adults need? It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night. For real!
Try not to skimp! (Don’t worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)
Tips for better sleep
- The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
- Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavored snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
- During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
- Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12 pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved Chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free Chai latte recipe for you here: Chai Latte
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an actual book, (not “e” book) or having a bath.
Foods that help promote a good night’s sleep
- Dates, cashews, gluten-free oats, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, all contain tryptophan, (sound familiar? yep it’s in your turkey dinner), an amino acid that releases the chemicals melatonin and serotonin into the brain, both of which give the body a feeling of contented drowsiness.
- Pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, and spinach, contain high levels of magnesium, a mineral that is known to help the body’s muscles to relax, strengthen bones, and encourage blood flow to all parts of the body. It is thought that increasing magnesium in the body may help with the condition known as Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Turnip greens, mustard greens,and collard greens, are excellent sources of calcium. Calcium plays a very large role in sustaining REM sleep. Experts believe that calcium levels in the body increase during the REM sleep stage. The calcium then helps the brain to better process the tryptophan, which helps to release melatonin.
So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?