Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.
It’s imperative for our health and all bodily functions that we get consistent adequate sleep.
- Impaired memory
- Weight gain
- Mood disorders
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease
- Being accident prone
- Relationship stress
- Diminished sex drive
- Shortened life expectancy
Egads! All due to not getting your zzzzz’s.
Keep in mind that we are not talking about 1 or 2 nights of poor quality sleep. Physical, emotional and mental health begins failing when we are chronically deprived of good quality sleep.
The average amount of hours to sleep for better health is between 7-9 hours for most people (adults). Babies and young children require much more sleep: 10-17 hours.
When people come to me with health issues I always ask whether or not they are getting good sleep. And, by good sleep I mean:
- It’s easy to fall asleep – your head hits the pillow and you are gone in moments
- Your mind isn’t racing with a million thoughts keeping you wide awake
- No need to urinate 2-3x during the night
- If you do wake in the middle of the night, it’s easy to fall back to sleep
- You wake feeling rested and ready to start the day
If you have check marks for all of the above you are doing great in the sleep category. If not, read on for more insight.
As I work with folks on improving their health conditions, one of my main goals is to help them achieve better quality sleep. That alone can improve many of the debilitating symptoms they are often suffering with.
So, let’s tuck you in and get you ready for a good night’s sleep. Here’s how:
Shut down your computer, cell phone and television
Yup, I said it! I know that we have the technology to stay powered up all night long, but it’s not actually good for us. Since the beginning of time humans have slept with the moon and risen with the sun. If you are looking at a bright computer or phone screen that is emitting a blue/white light, this enters your eyes and alerts your pineal gland that it is daytime. If it’s daytime, your endocrine system, nervous system and digestive system, as well as other bodily functions, have a physiological response; they want to get up and get moving. This is the exact opposite of what your body needs to get a good night’s sleep. Your body needs to relax and wind down. Shut down your electronic equipment 3 hours BEFORE bedtime to help your system begin the winding down process.
Do NOT eat/drink caffeine and stimulants after 3pm
If you are having trouble sleeping don’t have caffeine or stimulants (including chocolate) after 3pm in the afternoon. You want the body to be as relaxed as possible so you can easily slip into slumber. If you jack up your system with stimulants and sugar it’s going to be harder to wind down. Now, keep in mind, there are some people that can drink a cup of coffee and go to bed. I know… sounds crazy, right? Mostly, those folks are actually exhausted and living on fumes. The body needs energy to sleep. If you don’t have enough energy, the system will not shut down easily or will have a harder time shutting down. A jolt of energy at bedtime can sometimes help someone who is physically depleted get the energy they need to sleep. This is NOT a good practice.
Eat your last meal of the day 3-4 hours before bedtime
Give yourself a window to digest your last meal. If you go to bed on a full stomach your body is in “digestion mode” and this doesn’t make for a calm, relaxed system. Your liver is working, your stomach is working, and your intestines are working. That’s a heck of a lot of activity! Eat your final meal for the day 3-4 hours before bedtime and give your body time to digest it. This way you go to bed with less digestive noise. And, as an extra bonus, your body goes into rejuvenation mode instead. This will leave you feeling refreshed the following morning instead of wiped out.
Prepare to be in bed by 10pm
Sounds shocking, right? 10pm?! Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to be asleep by 10pm. It just means to prepare your body to be lying down in bed and relaxing by 10pm, the latest. You can read a book while you are in bed. You can have a conversation with your sweetheart. You can journal about your day. Just remember to keep the light adjusted so it is soft like candlelight. This will set the mood for sleeping.
Sip on a relaxing herbal tea
There are many herbs that can relax your body to get you ready for a good night’s sleep. A classic example is chamomile tea. Mother’s would traditionally give chamomile to cranky kids that didn’t want to go to sleep. It would relax them. Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine reciptors in the brain that reduce anxiety and initiates sleep. I’ve got a great blend of herbs that I love using to promote better sleep: G’night Infusion.
Start with these simple suggestions above and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time. I promise.
What are some of your favorite things to help you sleep better?
Andrea Beaman is an internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching people how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.
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