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  • THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP

    If you are one of the lucky ones who have no issues getting quality “shut-eye” at night, you may not think too much about the importance of sleep. Or maybe you do and that’s why you get quality sleep. Whether your sleep is wonderful at night or one of the millions who struggle - this blog is for YOU!!

    We know sleep is inevitable and an essential part of each day but why is it so important? The importance goes beyond just helping boost your mood and energy each day. Sleep is just as important as exercising and eating healthy. In fact, the lack of sleep could be the reason you are not achieving your personal fitness/health goals.

    Without even understanding why we need sleep, I’m sure you know (and have felt) that going without sleep can make us feel crummy and a good night's sleep can make us feel ready to take on the world. The sheer fact that sleep plays such a role in how we feel says a lot about its importance. Sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. You will be more prone to illness, your heart suffers by putting you at more risk of developing coronary heart disease or having a stroke, cancer risk increases, cognitive issues, lowered libido and weight gain to just name a few. Hence the reason you may not be achieving your goals if sleep is not on your side. When our body does not get adequate sleep, two hormones are affected - Leptin and Ghelrin. Leptin is our appetite-suppressing hormone which has been found to be decreased after several nights of sleep restriction. Ghrelin is our appetite-stimulating hormone which increases when we don’t sleep.

    Between family, personal and work life, sleep gets put pretty far down the priority list. Your bedtime habits, sleep schedule and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of your nightly rest. I hope this blog helps you put sleep higher up on your priority list. Try one or all of the below tips below and watch yourself go into “dreamland” much quicker and for much longer each night!!

    TIPS TO GETTING A BETTER NIGHT SLEEP

    1. STRESS

    Stress is one of the biggest reasons for sleepless nights, freeing your mind/easing your stress before going to bed is key. Make a point to not check email, “work”, have sensitive talks, make complicated decisions 1-2 hours before going to bed. It takes time to turn off the “noise” of the day. If you find you still have a lot on your mind as you are going to bed, write it down and do your best to let it go for the night. If you can’t stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, learn to evaluate your worries to see if they’re truly realistic and replace irrational fears with more productive thoughts. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.

    If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake, stress management will be key. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you will be able to sleep better at night. Find something calming to do before bed, like a warm bath, a calming book, meditate or listen to calming music. Even taking 10 minutes to relax before shutting your eyes for the night will make a big difference.

    2. CAFFEINE

    Caffeine seems obvious to avoid at night but stopping your caffeine intake earlier in the day (noonish) will help you avoid it still keeping you awake at night. Believe it or not but caffeine can still its affect up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Chocolate has small amounts of caffeine and can affect your Zzzz's later that night. This means anything with chocolate it it. For example: ice cream, protein bars, granola bars, anything that using chocolate for baking, etc. Read labels for hidden caffeine which can be found in certain pain relievers (Excedrin has 65 mg of caffeine), supplements, weight loss pills (which is reason #95969 not to use those for weight loss), etc.

    3. FOOD

    Eating heavy foods and big meals too late will affect how well you sleep because your stomach is hard at work trying to digest those foods. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.

    Not only does consuming healthy foods make us feel good but they also play a key role in sleep.

    *POTASSIUM

    Potassium may be helpful for those who have trouble staying asleep. Bananas are known as the best source of potassium but you can also find potassium in leafy greens, potatoes, broccoli, and avocados.

    *CALCIUM

    Calcium deficiency has been linked with disturbances in our REM sleep. Great sources of calcium are kale, collard greens, mustard greens, sardines, and sesame seeds.

    *VITAMIN D

    There is a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and excessive daytime sleepiness.

    Foods such as swordfish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, shiitake mushrooms, and oysters are great sources of vitamin D.

    *MELATONIN

    Melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycle and was talked about under #5. Bedroom environment, can also be found in small amounts in some foods, while others could also help raise your body’s production of melatonin. Tart cherries have the highest amount of melatonin. Walnuts, bananas, oranges and pineapples have been found to naturally boost your body’s melatonin levels.

    *SELENIUM

    A deficiency in selenium could play a role in sleep abnormalities. It’s also critical for your immune system function and thyroid function. With selenium, a little bit can go a long way. Great sources are Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, beef, oysters, chicken, and cremini mushrooms.

    4. ALCOHOL

    While a nightcap may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it interferes with your sleep cycle. After its initial effects wear off, it will make you wake up more often overnight. To optimize the quality of your sleep, stay away from alcohol in the hours leading up to your bedtime.

    5. LIGHT EXPOSURE

    Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s natural production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.

    Check out the below tips to keep your hormones and sleep-wake cycle on track.

    During the day:

    -Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window. Skip the sunglasses! The light on your face will help you wake up and feel more alert.

    -Spend more time outside during daylight. Try to take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.

    -Let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.

    -If natural light is hard to come by, use a light therapy box. A light therapy box simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days when there’s limited daylight.

    At night:

    -Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. All nighttime light can interfere with sleep and your body’s rhythms, but the blue light emitted by electronics is especially disruptive. This includes the screen on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens or turning the brightness down.

    -Say no to late-night television. Many people use the television to wind down at the end of the day, but this can backfire. Not only does the light suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead. If your favorite TV show is on late at night, record it for viewing earlier in the day.

    -When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask to cover your eyes. Also consider covering up or moving any electronics that emit light. Even the red numbers on a digital clock can disrupt sleep.

    6. TIMING YOUR EXERCISE RIGHT

    Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates activating hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but too close to bed and it can interfere with sleep.

    Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least 3 hours before your bedtime. If you are still experiencing sleep difficulties, move your workouts even earlier. For some people, it can take up to 6 hours for the body to fully cool down after exercise to a temperature conducive to sleep.

    Don’t feel glued to the couch, though. Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

    7. NAPPING

    If you are not sleeping well at night, you may more prone to napping. While napping is a good way to recharge and make up for lost sleep hours, it could a reason you are not sleeping well at night. If you can, try to eliminate naps altogether or at least limit your naps to 15- 20 minutes.

    8. BEDROOM ENVIRONMENT

    It’s not just the comfort of your bed and pillow that make for a good night sleep. It may seem silly but the colors in your room, the temperature in your room, etc. play a role in your sleep. Choosing the colors blue, yellow, and green are associated with calmness and relaxation.

    Keeping your room a cool temperature (between 60-67 degrees) can help aid the process of cooling your body.

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