Sleep is a state of reduced or absent consciousness that should technically take up about a third of our time. Sleep gives the body and brain time for much needed repair and recovery. We can all tell when we get a good night’s sleep and when we don’t.
Many people wake up tired due to poor sleep quality or just too little sleep. Besides being fatigued and irritable, lack of sleep can have negative health consequences including a weakened immune system, an increased chance for heart disease, and even diminished brain health.
The following tips will give you the best chance for quality sleep.
Set your surroundings. For restful sleep, the environment needs to be dark. This means no distractions from street lights or passing cars. Keep blinds and drapes closed at night. Even the glow from a nightlight or alarm clock can disturb sleep. Your bed should not be a place to watch television or browse social media. When your head hits the pillow, your mind should be ready to rest. Take care of any emotional stress before you climb into bed.
Settle in. Everyone has their preferred sleeping position, but if you find yourself tossing and turning, try the following. Ly on your back with your neck neutral. Place both hands on your abdomen. Inhale slowly for seven seconds and allow your abdominal wall to rise as air fills your lungs, hold your breath for one second, and then exhale for another seven seconds. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and allow your body and mind to fully relax.
Make it a habit. If possible, try to get to bed at the same time every night. The most restful sleep is between the hours of 10pm and 6am. By getting in the habit of going down around 10pm every night, your body’s internal clock will stay more consistent and will actually prepare itself for sleep, making it easier for you to fall asleep and easier to stay asleep throughout the entire night.
Work hard, rest hard. The body rests harder when it works harder. But, the right type of stress makes all the difference. Strength training is a good type of stress that strengthens the body, but also strengthens the quality of sleep. Studies show that even just one strength training session using moderate weights positively influenced the sleep of test subjects. Just one more reason to hit the gym regularly.
Feed your sleep. The importance of nutrition is a no-brainer for improved health and controlling bodyweight, but changing your food intake can have a dramatic effect on your sleep as well. Eating starchy or sugary foods too close to bedtime can cause a temporary spike in blood sugar, only to have it crash back down a few hours later, waking you from restful sleep. Instead, focus on eating your last meal several hours before bedtime, and if needed, have a light snack consisting of a quality protein and fat source closer to your bedtime.