11 Ways to Improve Your Nightly Zzzs
Getting a good night's sleep doesn't just feel better - it has a major effect on your health and well-being. Greater energy, increased productivity, a better mood, healthier heart and immune system are just a few benefits of getting regular, good quality sleep. The problem? Many people, and especially women, are not getting this. In his book, The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan, Dr. Michael Breus, warns, "Sleep issues are epidemic among women today."
Getting a good night's sleep doesn't just improve your health; you may even live longer. A recent study in Australia found that healthy sleep patterns could lead to longer lives. Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University asserts, "Poor sleep has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
So how do we make sure we sleep well? Follow the simple tips below to get better, longer, and more regular sleep every night.
Stick to a "Sleep Schedule"
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Keeping a consistent sleep timetable will maintain your biological clock’s rhythms, which will ensure better quality sleep. Going to bed and getting up at the same times each day will also tell your brain when it’s time to send out sleep and wake hormones .Don’t think you can “catch up on sleep” by sleeping later on the weekends – this will only disrupt your sleep rhythms. Staying up later than normal also has negative effects and can even lead to insomnia during the other days you go to bed at your earlier time.
Keep a Sleep Journal
Keeping a journal to track your sleep will help you figure out how your habits influence your sleep. You only need to do this for 2 or 3 weeks to notice patterns. Write down items related to sleep like when you go to bed, if you wake up during the night and how often, how long it takes before you go to sleep, and how your feel in the morning. Also keep notes on things that might not appear to be sleep-related but may have an impact such as any snacks you had before and whether you exercised that day. Check out the following links for sample sleep journals to get you started.
Exercise, but earlier in the day
Most medical professionals would agree that working out definitely helps improve how long and how well you sleep. However, exercise, especially cardio, will raise your body's temperature for at least 4 hours, which will impede your sleep. This is because when your body cools down, this is a message to your brain to emit sleep-friendly melatonin, making you feel drowsy. If your temperature is raised, it will take you longer to get to sleep.
An exception to this, is yoga. Doing a yoga routine for relaxation can actually increase the chances for sleep. Better yet, try a yoga routine specifically for sleep, with poses you can do from the comfort of your own bed.
- 8-Minute Workout: 5 Relaxing Yoga Poses for Better Sleep | Fitness Magazine
This relaxing yoga workout is designed to do in bed, to calm your body and mind before sleep.
Keep your body in line
How do you do this? Making sure that your body is in alignment to help you get to sleep - finding the perfect pillow will help you do this. Use a pillow that will hold your neck and spine in a straight line, avoiding cramps or tension that may keep you from falling asleep. People who sleep on their stomachs might want to avoid a pillow or get a flat one in order to keep the spine and neck straight.
Take a deep breath-or two
Deep breathing enables you to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, which will help your body relax and release endorphinsmake spThis technique helps reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, releases endorphins. Try this technique: Breath in for 5 sections, hold for 3, and then breathe out for 5 seconds. Do this 8 times and try to gradually up this to 15. Not sure you're doing it correctly? Use a container of children's bubbles, breath in through your belly and then blow through the bubble wand. If you can successfully blow a bubble, then this is the same type of breathing to do before bed.
Set time to wind down.
Give yourself time to develop a winding down routine. This helps your body to make the transition from your daily activity to getting ready to sleep. Make sure you give yourself at least an hour before bed and try to follow the same routine nightly. This could include getting preparing your clothes, lunch ,and bag for the next day, carrying out a personal hygiene routine, and taking some time to relax in bed.
The one activity for relaxing in bed which should not be included is watching tv right before bed. The TV's bright light actually stimulates the brain instead of relaxing it, which can have an affect on the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which is necessary for good quality of sleep. If you do, your are not alone - a recent sleep survey discovered that two-thirds of the world's people watch TV right before bed time. Laptops with bright screens also have the same effect as the bright light of tv and should also be avoided right before bed.
Instead, try reading (with a low-intensity light), listening to music, or practicing bedtime yoga or deep breathing exercises- you will notice the difference the next morning.
Using essential oils that stimulate the alpha wave activity in your brain will help you relax and sleep more deeply. Rubbing a few drops on the back of your neck, adding a few drops to a bit of water in a diffuser, or even mixing several drops to water in a spray bottle and spritzing your pillowcase are all ways to ensure you get the full benefit of these relaxing scents. Tangerine, ylang-ylang, chamomile,lavender, and sandalwood are all good choices.
Keep your cool.
Although many of us love to sleep feeling warm and snuggled under a mound of blankets, it's actually better to sleep in cooler temperatures. Most experts suggest a setting of between 65° and 75°F- adjust it according to how you feel once you get in bed. If you get in bed on cool sheets, your body temperature drops and starts producing sleep-tempting melatonin. Making sure you don't feel hot or cold, but pleasantly cool will help you quickly start snoozing and keep sleeping throughout the night.
Have a snack.
Many of us tend to avoid eating a lot of carbs in our daily diet, but eating a bedtime snack containing carbs can actually help you sleep. Combine a carbohydrate with a calcium-rich product or protein. This combination ups serotinin levels in your brain, which will make you feel calmer. Ideal snacks are cheese and crackers, toast and cheese, banana or apple slices with peanut butter, fruit with yoghurt, or cereal with low-fat milk. Have your snack about an hour before you go to bed to give amino acids time to get to your brain.
Try some cherry juice.
If all else fails, try drinking tart cherry juice. A study at Lousiana State University had people suffering from insomnia drink 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day over two weeks. They then drank no juice for two weeks, and a placebo drink for two weeks. They found that drinking the cherry juice provided an average of 84 minutes of sleep every night.
Why cherry juice? It contains the hormone melatonin and helps tryptophan, an amino acid that helps encourage sleep, stay in the body longer than usual.
If you're not fond of cherry flavor, eating two kiwi fruits an hour before bedtime showed a 13% increase in sleep time and also helped to lower waking periods during sleep by 29% after just one month of kiwi consumption, according to a recent study in China.
So there you have it - 11 simple ways to get better sleep. Even if you try only a few of these, you may find yourself falling asleep more easily, feeling more refreshed in the morning - and giving the snooze button a rest as you start your day happier, healthier, and ready to go.