A good night’s sleep is essential for ALL aspects of your health. It’s during sleep that your body regenerates and detoxifies. Chronic, long-term insufficient sleep increases your odds of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, and even weight gain. Not just logging hours in bed, but quality sleep is one of the most important factors to keep your brain sharp, and immune system strong. A recent study showed that a good night’s sleep is even responsible for promoting skin health and a youthful appearance.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, we know the coming months are going to be filled with family gatherings, late nights and less sleep. By making sure your body gets the rest it needs, you will help strengthen your body to ward off common colds. Follow these healthy sleep habits, which you can put in place immediately, to get a head start on feeling incredibly well-rested and energetic all season long!
1. Avoid stimulants that interfere with your sleep
As any coffee lover knows, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Curbing caffeine intake (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some pain relievers) after 2pm can have a huge impact on how quickly you’re able to fall asleep. Although that glass of wine after dinner is always tempting, it might be hurting you more than it’s helping. Alcohol may help bring on sleep, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night. Aim to limit alcohol consumption and avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.
2. Create a pre-sleep routine
Ease into bedtime by creating an environment for quality sleep; this includes starting to dim the amount of artificial lighting, adjusting the room to have cooler temperatures, and taking note of activities that leave you feeling restless or anxious before bed.
Be cautious of watching TV or using other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Research suggests that screen time before bedtime interferes with sleep. Not only stimulating your brain before bed, electronics can also disrupt your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy and regulating your internal sleep clock.
3. Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Aim to go to sleep and wake up around the same time everyday. Training your body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine on weekends to help increase the effectiveness. Schedule your morning yoga class ahead of time, committing to those feel good asanas will make it less tempting to keep hitting the snooze button.
4. Lighten evening eating and drinking
Similarly to alcohol, a big meal before bed might make you fall right asleep but it will disturb your sleep (it’s likely you’ll wake up in the middle of the night “burning off” the heavy meal). Also, hydrate throughout the day so that as you approach bedtime you can limit your fluid intake to avoid waking up to use the restroom all night.
5. Exercise early
We all know that regular exercise has incredible benefits on our physical and mental state. Sure it can even help us sleep better – but it’s good to note that timing is important. Try to finish working out at least 2 hours before bed, as exercising too close to bedtime can leave you feeling too energized to fall asleep.
6. Try sleep-inducing snacks to increase your odds of a successful slumber:
- Bananas – well known for being rich in potassium, are also a good source of Vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin.
- Kale – green leafy vegetables, such as kale and collards, boasts a healthy dose of calcium, which helps you fall asleep.
- Quinoa – a good source of the calming mineral, magnesium, which helps you stay asleep.
- Almonds / almond butter –unsaturated fats will not only boost your heart health but also improve your serotonin levels, the “feel good” hormone in charge of regulating the sleep/wake cycle.
7. Go to sleep when you’re truly tired
Struggling to fall sleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, go to another room, and do something relaxing (such as reading or listening to music) until you are tired enough to sleep. If you find tomorrow’s to-do lists flooding your thoughts, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.