Transcript: 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sleep
Did you get enough sleep this past week? Can you remember the last time you woke up without an alarm and feeling refreshed? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you are not alone. In fact, two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of sleep per night.
The scary thing is that sleep doesn’t just affect your ability to concentrate the next day, or how nice you’re going to be to your spouse.
In fact, routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night devastates your immune system, and more than doubles your risk of cancer.
A lack of sleep is also a key lifestyle determiner of whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
It increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, resulting in cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
Sleep disruption also further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions including depression, anxiety and suicidality.
Sleep is not to be taken lightly.
There are many things sleep does for us. Sleep:
- Is important for brain function
- Helps to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes
- Helps to regulate your appetite
- Balances your hormones
- Supports your immune system and reduces your risk of cancer
- Helps you live longer
- Helps us detox
These are just some of sleep’s many attributes.
The question is: how much sleep should you get? And what can you do to increase your chance of getting a good night’s sleep?
A 2017 study found that a “sweet spot” of approximately seven hours per night is optimal for the health and functioning of most adults. Of course, there may be slight differences based on your age, gender, health, activity level, and general makeup but this is the general ballpark you want to be aiming for.
So what can you do to enhance your sleep quantity and quality?
In this video, I want to share with you the top ten ways you can improve both your sleep quality and quantity.
1. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and alcohol
Caffeine and sugar, especially if consumed later in the day, can keep you awake at night and make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist which means that it prevents adenosine from doing its job of getting you to fall asleep.
And, while alcohol in small amounts may help you get to sleep, research has shown that a high alcohol intake results in increased sleep disruption, lower quality of sleep and shorter sleep duration.
2. Increase your intake of dark leafy greens
Here’s yet another reason why you should dose up on your greens. Dark leafy green vegetables- are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin- carotenoids that are natural blue light filters. They’re also packed with micronutrients such as tryptophan, potassium, magnesium and calcium which help to promote good sleep.
3. Focus on foods high in magnesium
Increase your consumption of magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains, avocadoes, soybeans, bananas, nuts and seeds. Why? Because magnesium binds to GABA receptors (GABA is your calming neurotransmitter) and works as a natural muscle relaxant, promoting good sleep.
Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, are also high in melatonin (your sleep hormone), and can increase your body’s melatonin levels.
4. Have a source of protein in the evening before bed
Have protein at night in combination with a source of essential fatty acids such as nuts and seeds to enable sufficient relaxation. Protein is made up of amino acids including L-tryptophan which plays an important role in serotonin and melatonin synthesis.
Protein may also stabilise blood sugars and prevent hypoglycaemia at night and essential fatty acids are required structurally for neuronal membrane health as well as for production and regulation of prostaglandins that promote and suppress sleep.
One simple thing you could do is to drink a glass of warm nut milk with a tablespoon of plant-based protein powder about half an hour before you go to sleep.
5. Ensure that your evening meals are light and easily digestible
If you’ve ever eaten a heavy meal near bedtime, you may have noticed that it can make it harder to fall asleep. It also might wake you up during the night.
Also, for some people, spicy foods and foods like citrus and tomatoes can cause indigestion and reflux, making it difficult to get comfortable in bed.
6. Set yourself a sleep schedule
Having a set schedule normalises sleep as an essential part of your daily routine and gets your brain and body accustomed to getting the full amount of sleep that you need. Make sure you have a fixed wake-up time regardless of whether it’s a weekday or weekend. If you want to shift your sleep times, don’t try to do it all at once. It’s better to make small, step-by-step adjustments of up to an hour or two so you can slowly get adjusted to a new schedule. Also, try not to overdo it with naps as it can throw out sleep at night. If you have to nap, keep them relatively short and limited to the early afternoon.
7. Follow a nightly routine
How you prepare for bed can determine how easily you’ll be able to fall asleep. Give yourself 30 minutes to wind down before you sleep and take advantage of whatever puts you in a state of calm such as soft music, light stretching, reading or meditation exercises.
The other key is not to toss and turn- it helps to have a healthy mental connection between being in bed and actually being asleep. For that reason, if after twenty minutes, you haven’t gotten to sleep, get up and stretch, read, or do something else that is calming in low light before trying to fall asleep again.
8. Avoid exposure to blue light
Turn off any blue lights and don’t give in to the temptation to look at your screens before you close your eyes. Light can hinder the production of melatonin and cell phones, tablets and laptops cause mental stimulation that is hard to shut off.
9. Create a proper sleeping environment
This could mean making sure your room is dark and at the right temperature, having a window open for good air flow, making sure your mattress is comfortable and you have the right amount of blankets.
And last but not least…
10. Don’t neglect exercise
Exercise is also very important for a good night’s sleep. Being physically active during the day can help expend excess energy which will make it easier for your body to relax in the evening. Exercise also reduces stress, boosts endorphins, increases blood flow which will all help to get a better night’s rest.
Aim to do 30 minutes of exercise per day with a combination of more high intensity exercise, resistance training as well as stretching or yoga exercises which will also help to combat stress.
And there you have it: 10 simple things you can to enhance your chances of a good night’s rest. Before you go, please like and subscribe and please share with us in the comments if you have tried any of these strategies and which ones have worked for you.
And if you want to learn more about your body’s circadian rhythm and what you can do to regulate it, check out this video here.