Sleeping often goes under the radar when addressing your overall health status. Sleep is vital to good health and vitality as it provides the mind and body with REST, RECOVERY, and REPAIR. Adequate QUANTITY (7-9 hours) and QUALITY sleep will help you to feel energized and motivated for the day ahead, while also keeping your hormones in balance and your waistline in check.
Do you identify with any of the following?
- Trouble falling asleep.
- Difficulty staying asleep.
- Trouble getting back to sleep when awakened.
- Do not feel refreshed upon awakening.
- Feel sleepy, moody, or have difficulty concentrating throughout the day.
- Have difficulty staying awake throughout the day.
- Rely on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep.
If any of the above describes you, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders and insomnia may have a number of underlying causes including poor sleep habits and sleep environment, pain or medical illness, hormonal imbalances, side effects of medications (i.e. decongestants, MAOIs, SSRIs, etc.), lack of physical activity, psychological stress or disorders, restless leg syndrome, shift work, snoring, and/or sleep apnea. Make sure to identify the underlying causes of your sleep disorder.
Did You Know…
Just one night of poor sleep increases cravings for calorie-dense foods. Lack of sleep increases appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and decreases satiety hormone leptin while also increasing signs of insulin resistance and inflammation.
Good Sleep Hygiene Checklist:
- Make sure the cell phone and laptop are away from the bed- do not check your email or engage in any potential stressful activities before bedtime. I use the “Do Not Disturb” feature in my phone settings so that I do not get a notification of texts or calls between certain hours (9pm and 7am).
- Make sure the bedroom is quiet (don’t fall asleep with the tv on), dark (try black-out curtains to cover windows), and cool (use a fan or crack open the window).
- Check in on your comfort- buy comfortable pillows, blankets, and mattress
- Do not read from a backlit device in the evening (i.e. IPad, kindle, laptop, cell phone) and limit television watching to help cut down exposure to blue light. This type of light will stimulate the brain to stay awake.
- Keep a regular bedtime, even on weekends and adjust sleep cycle slowly if needed.
- Limit use of your bedroom for sleep and sex only.
- Do not watch the time- move clocks out of view.
- Limit caffeine intake late in the day. The time of day may differ depending on your specific caffeine-sensitivity.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime. While it may help you to fall asleep quickly, you will not enter into a deep, restful sleep state.
- Avoid big meals or spicy foods before bedtime. Allow at least 2-hours of digestion prior to bedtime.
- Minimize fluid intake before bedtime to reduce the likelihood of waking through the night to use the restroom.
- Set your wakeup time in multiples of 90-minutes (i.e. bedtime at 10pm, wakeup time at 5:30am). This tip is related to the amount of time it takes to get through each sleep cycle.
- Get 30-minutes of physical activity daily, but avoid exercising 3-hours before bedtime.
- Avoid napping during the day. If not possible, limit napping to no more than 30 minutes per day in the early afternoon.
- If you are unable to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of trying, leave the room and go do something relaxing like reading a book or journaling (avoiding the television and other backlit devices). Return to your bedroom when drowsy.
If you can change even just one thing about your sleep hygiene, you will be making big strides in the right direction to a better night of sleep! Stay tuned for part II of this sleep series where I will discuss natural remedies to help improve your sleep quality and quantity.