Sleeping Well is Key for Good Health - 18 Ways to Improve Your Sleep
If a client of mine is sleep deprived and regularly has trouble sleeping, fixing this problem is my first priority.
For one thing, it is during your sleep that the real magic happens. It is the very foundation for good health. This is when recovery takes place, it's where we increase growth hormones for repair, gain muscles and burn fat. It's when we strengthen our immune system, reset our nerve system and balance out hormones. Scientists still know little of what actually happens to us during our sleep, but we do know that it's your body’s most anti-inflammatory process. I regard sleep as my bodys most valuable asset. I strongly recommend that you take charge of it and protect it.
If you don’t sleep well, any performance will drop. Lack of sleep might also make you crave more for sweets and stimulants, increase your stress levels, make it harder to make decisions and decrease your focus and concentration.
You could actually also get fatter if you don't sleep: If you do not sleep properly, the hormone cortisol will release at night when it actually should be at its low. That in turn could lead to lower growth hormone production and less insulin sensitivity, which in turn could lead to increased belly fat. Shift workers are actually at a higher risk of getting cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, probably because of the disruption of the circadian rhythm - the natural sleep and awake cycle.
Here are 18 ways to help you improve your sleep:
18 Strategies to help you improve sleep:
- Avoid stimulants - No caffein, sugars, alcohol or speeding stimulants before bedtime. If you ramp up your nerve system before going to sleep, you are most likely going to have a hard time falling asleep.
- Eat foods you tolerate - If you eat something that you are not used to or even allergic to, it will definitely interrupt with the quality of your sleep.
- Save the carbs for dinner - Eating starchy carbs in the evening increases your serotonin levels ,which might calm you down and help you fall asleep. Remember that this depends on the metabolism, blood sugar sensitivity of the individual person.
- Prepare yourself - Make yourself ready not only to fall asleep but prepare the time before you go to bed so that you actually give yourself time to wind down.
- Practice your rhythm and routines - Your body loves routines, especially when it comes to sleep, so try to be on point.
- Hydrate - Aim for at least 0.03 times your bodyweight = L / day (70kg person = 2.1 L/day). Dehydration could cause you to wake up during the night. Make sure to start the day with 0.4L on an empty stomach. Consume most of the water during the day - not the very last minute before you go to bed as that will surely make you wake up in the night with a full bladder.
- Meditation - Clear your mind and come back to a coherent and neutral zone after a long stressful day.
- Use earplugs and eye mask - It helps you avoid unnecessary distractions that could wake you up.
- Log out your brain - Instead of keeping all thoughts that keep you wired up in your mind, write them down. You could even book an appointment with yourself to take care of that tomorrow (Tip: Read more about taming your monkey mind another of my blog posts).
- Keep it cool in the bedroom - Open the window for fresh air, install an air cleaner. The ChiliPAD is a popular product to use if your partner or your dog feels like a fireplace next to you =).
- A dark room - Make sure your bedroom is pitch-black. Even the little red dot on the tv could interfere with a sensitive person’s sleep.
- Keep a gratefulness log book - Write down five things that you are grateful for today. It could will give you a positive ending of the day and who knows, it might help you dream about positive things.
- Listen to a podcast - Put on a podcast with fiction that might take you in to the dreamers land.
- Slow movements - Slow stretching, yoga or even decompressing the spine, like hanging upside down, are methods that have helped many.
- Don't give a sh*t - Who hasn't felt the stress over and over again when you have an important meeting or flight to catch that falling asleep is impossible. It's because your a constantly thinking about it. It becomes a stressor. Tell yourself that whatever happens, happens. If you wake up tired with two bags under your eyes, well, try not to bother: You can shine anyway! That might be easier said than done, but hey, what's the worst thing that can happen?!
- Try adding supplements - Try some of these vitamins, herbs, minerals and hormones to help you get into a calming state and relax a speeding mind: Magnesium, Inositol, Teanin, Basil, Melatonin, B-complex (make sure to consult with your doctor before).
- Drink Tea - Drink a stress relieving, calming and soothing bed time tea like the selection from Yogi, which I enjoy.
- Exercise - Not big news, but yes, it does help getting physically tired. Just make sure you avoid high intensity workouts late at night as this might mess around with your cortisol levels and make it harder to fall asleep.
Learn more about sleep
I have found a lot of interesting research at the sleepfoundation.org. Here is a link on how much sleep we need and how many hours depending on age.