6 Steps to Have a Better Sleep Tonight
The Dalai Lama once said “Sleep is the best form of meditation”.
Scientists have discovered that sleep plays an important role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. Poor sleep is also significantly linked to weight gain. People with short sleep duration weigh significantly more that people with longer sleep duration. Not to mention less shut eye is also linked with increased risk of diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure and stroke risk.
Restless sleep can also be caused from hormonal imbalances such as thyroid disease, or other reasons such as unwanted effects from medications or living with chronic pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 50-70 million adults have a sleep disorder in the United States, in fact the issue is so big that it is considered a public health problem.
Over 9 million people in the US alone use prescription drug medications, and unfortunately these meds can have some unwanted side effects such as day time sleepiness and addiction.
The good news is that there are simple, actionable steps that you can take today to improve quality and quantity of sleep, regardless of the reasons why you aren’t sleeping.
Step 1: Get Outside and See the Sunlight
Humans, like all animals operate on a circadian rhythm, or internal clock. This “clock” is regulated by hormones like melatonin, and exposure to light and darkness. When we wake up and expose our body to sunlight (even through a window), it helps to regulate our clock and tells our body it is daytime. This can also be a helpful practice when one is experiencing jet lag. Getting out in the sunlight has been known to reduce the effects of travel fatigue because it helps to re-set the body clock. Likewise, dimming the lights at night helps to tell the body it is evening and can help prepare us for sleep.
Step 2: Remove Smart Phones and Other Devices from the Bedroom
Smart phones, tablets, computers and TVs are significantly interfering with the quality and quantity of our sleep. The reason is multi-factorial: the blue light emitted from these devices disrupts our hormone balance and circadian rhythm, what we read or watch on these devices can be stimulating and, many of us end up working or checking emails much later in the night or earlier in the evening than we would otherwise because the device is beside us in the bed. Not to mention, using these devices in the bedroom can take away from quality time spent with our partner. Keep the devices out of the bedroom and purchase a cheap alarm clock that does not emit blue light.
Step 3: Exercise!
Our bodies are designed to move, and many of us are very sedentary all day long. This has been shown to reduce the quality of our sleep. Ideally, we should be exercising our bodies (even gently) every day for at least 30 minutes. Most of us don’t have time to do this, but even small improvements count. Take the stairs, walk around the block on your lunch break and stretch when you wake up and before you go to sleep.
Step 4: Avoid Caffeine after Noon
Many people don’t realize that coffee and other caffeinated beverages can take many hours to metabolize and exit the body. Each person’s metabolism differs in how fast or slow they metabolize caffeine, but if you are having difficulty sleeping switching to decaf or herbal teas in the afternoon can make a huge difference. Or, take out caffeine all together for 2 weeks and see if you notice any changes.
Step 5: Consider Natural and Herbal Remedies
There are lots of natural options that can help encourage good quality sleep. Taking natural melatonin can be helpful for some, others may benefit from certain herbs such as chamomile, valerian or hops. Make sure you check with a qualified healthcare provider that the natural remedy is right for you and won’t interfere with other medications you may be taking.
Step 6: If you Snore, Make Sure you Rule out Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects over 22 million Americans, is under diagnosed and can have serious side effects such as heart disease and stroke. Diagnoses can be missed because people may think their fatigue is due to another cause such as depression. However, if you snore, wake up gasping for air, are often sleepy in the daytime, experience dry mouth or have elevated blood pressure consider having a sleep study conducted to make sure you are not apneic. If you do have sleep apnea, proper treatment such as weight loss, an oral appliance or a CPAP machine can not only lead to a much better sleep but could save your life.
I was recently interviewed on THE TONIC talk show regarding sleep. You can catch the interview here (at 43.44 of podcast) http://content.blubrry.com/thetonic/The_Tonic-Ep47-Sep29_2018_1_.mp3
What helps you sleep? Leave your comments below!
1. CDC Sleep and Sleep Disorders. 2018 https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
2. Time Magazine 2017 Mediation http://time.com/tag/meditation/
3. American Academy of Sleep Medicine 2013 https://aasm.org/cdc-analysis-finds-low-rate-of-prescription-sleep-aid-use-in-u-s/