In the busy world of juggling demanding careers, time with our family and maintaining a social life — there aren’t enough hours in the day. As a result, the average number of quality sleep hours most North Americans get is on the decline.
Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night can increase our risk for most chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and most autoimmune conditions. If your sleep isn’t restful, try implementing some of these safe, natural and effective sleep-supporting tools.
Watch What (and When) You Eat
We know we need to watch what we eat to maintain our figure — but did you know food can affect our sleep as well? Be careful with having too many sweets or refined carbohydrates late in the evening. Too many sweets can put your sleep hormones on the back burner. If you need a snack, nibble on light protein like almonds or hummus with vegetable sticks. Try to avoid eating a large heavy meal after 9 p.m. (If you’ve ever had the night sweats after a big heavy meal — you know why I say this.)
Keep it Cool
Keeping your room cool (not freezing) at night can enhance the quality of sleep. Keep the temperature as low as you can without being cold under the sheets. You’ll enjoy a more restful sleep and will save on your heating bills at the same time!
My patients know one of my favorite sayings, when it comes to sleep, is “Cold, Dark, Cave.” This is what you want to strive for when you sleep. Any light that’s on in your bedroom can affect the key sleep hormone, melatonin. Even the light coming from small alarm clocks has been show to disrupt hormonal sleep rhythms. Close the blinds, turn the alarm clock face down on the night table. And, please, don’t fall asleep with the TV on!
Most of us live such busy lives the only free time we have to ourselves is at the end of the day. But daily quality “me” time shouldn’t be spent paying bills, catching up on work emails, etc. This causes certain neurotransmitters, which we need when performing a task, to spike, counteracting the calming hormones our body needs to prepare for sleep. Rule of thumb is to start winding down at least one hour before bedtime. Reading a non-stressful book and/or having a relaxing bath are easy ways to prepare yourself for sleep.
Exercise… But Not Too Late in the Day…
While exercise is one of the critical components of optimal health and sleep, many choose to workout after work and sometimes late into the evening. Exercise can stimulate cortisol, the hormone secreted to wake us up. If your sleep is not optimal, try working out in the a.m. before your day begins. As a side benefit, working out in the morning has been shown to be the best fat burning time.
Careful With the Caffeine
While this may be obvious to some, many people with sleep issues continue to resort to caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and even colas or energy drinks to keep energized throughout the day. Many notice consuming any of these after 1 p.m. can affect their quality of sleep. Try swapping decaf blends into your diet to avoid additional “stay-awake” chemicals.
Author by Dr. John Dempster