In case you haven’t heard, sleep is absolutely crucial to your health. With a few simple strategies, you can get the high-quality, restful sleep your body and your mind deserves.
Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition.
Good sleep helps our bodies and minds recover, keeping us lean, happy, mentally focused, and healthy.
But chronically bad sleep slathers on body fat, screws up our hormones, ages us faster, increases chronic illnesses, and drains our IQ and mojo.
Fortunately, research also shows that returning to adequate sleep can quickly reduce these risks.
So how do we go about getting that replenishing shut-eye?
Create a sleep routine –
Just like you can’t go from 0 to 100 first thing in the morning, you can’t do the reverse at night — going from “on” to “off” in a few minutes. Your body needs transition time and environmental cues to wind down.
Thus, the first step to getting more and better sleep is to create a night time routine that tells your body that you are preparing to go to sleep. Over time, if you’re consistent, your body will start the process of gearing down automatically.
1 – Keep a regular schedule.
Our bodies like regularity. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and night. While it might be unrealistic to do this seven days a week — especially if you have young children, try to be as consistent as possible.
If you’re consistent, your body will know when to release calming hormones before bed, and stimulating hormones to help you wake up. You’ll feel sleepy when it’s time for bed and wake up more refreshed, often without needing an alarm.
2 – Keep alcohol and caffeine moderate.
Genuinely restful and restorative sleep comes from deep sleep.
Even though it seems like booze is relaxing, more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can interfere with deep sleep, as can too much caffeine.
Limit alcohol to the suggested amounts, and reduce caffeine after 2 pm.
Otherwise, although you may “sleep” for 7 hours, your sleep won’t be high quality, and you won’t get the recovery benefits.
3 – Eat and drink appropriately.
Having a large meal immediately before bed can disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep. Instead, eat a regular-sized (or even smallish) meal a few hours before bedtime.
A nice blend of protein, carbs and fats will help to keep you satiated, and might even improve your ability to fall asleep as your brain converts carbs to serotonin.
In addition, try to limit your fluids 2-3 hours before bedtime. Drinking too much liquid shortly before bed can result in frequent waking for bathroom breaks.
While total sleep time is important, uninterrupted sleep time is even better.
4 – Do a brain dump.
We’ve all done it: Stared at the ceiling, long after lights-out, obsessing about all the things we’re supposed to do tomorrow, tossing and turning and getting more and more stressed by the minute.
Try this instead: In the evening, take a few minutes to write out a list of whatever’s bugging you: Emails you need to send or reply to, calls you have to make, project ideas, creative thoughts etc.
Whatever is in your brain, get it out and on paper.
We call this a “brain dump.” It clears your mind for genuine relaxation.
5 – Turn off electronics.
Digital devices stimulate our brain with their light, noise, and mental demands.
Unplug from all screens — TVs, computers, phones, tablets — at least 30 minutes before bed.
If you must read your tablet, switch the screen to the black or dimmer background.
Our brain produces melatonin as light levels decrease. Melatonin ensures deep sleep, and may also help regulate our metabolism. If we have too much light at night, we don’t get proper melatonin production.
6 – Stretch / read / de-stress before bed.
What de-stresses you? Do that. This could include:
• Gentle movement — such as stretching or yoga, or even a slow stroll around the block. Even 5-15 minutes can release tension and activate calm-down chemicals.
• Reading before bed — but make sure it’s not too engaging — otherwise you’ll be tempted to stay up with that thrilling detective novel for hours when you should be sleeping.
• Meditation, deep breathing, or other simple relaxation exercises
7 – Take a bath or shower
While not everyone likes to shower or bathe at night, warm water before bed can help us relax and de-stress, which is key for falling asleep. If you go the warm water route, throw in some magnesium- based Epsom salts as magnesium is known to help with sleep.
Give these tips a try, and see which works better for you.