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A happier, healthier you

Clean Up Your Sleep Habits for Better Zzzs

by Yes Health

Sleep was so simple when we were kids. Remember? Falling into a deep slumber was as easy as flipping a switch. But as adults, lots of things can get in the way of feeling well-rested. A good night’s sleep has been linked to better overall health, including a more robust immune system, clearer thinking and decision-making, faster recall and learning, longer attention spans, greater creativity, lower blood sugar and lower risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke to name a few. Sleep also helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough shuteye, your ghrelin shoots up and your leptin drops. This makes you feel hungry and overtime can lead to weight gain, and even obesity.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep (both?) or don’t feel rejuvenated even after a full 7 or 8 hours in bed, adopting some good sleep hygiene habits can help. Here’s a list of 16 ideas from the Yes Health Coaches so you can get better rest, starting tonight:

  1. Nap strategically. Limit your daytime naps to 30 minutes max. Napping won’t make up for lost sleep, but a short power snooze can help improve your mood, alertness and performance. 
  2. Skip the stimulants. This is a no-brainer, but it’s best to avoid coffee or other drinks with caffeine after 3 p.m. 
  3. Watch the wine. While alcohol might help you dose off faster, too much can disrupt your sleep as your body begins to convert the alcohol into sugar. (This is why you’ll sometimes wake up feeling hot and restless after too many drinks with dinner.)
  4. Move your body. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, such as walking, hiking or cycling, can drastically improve your sleep quality. Just keep in mind that strenuous workouts right before bedtime might rev you up instead of calming you down.  
  5. Eat light at night. Heavy, rich, spicy foods and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion and heartburn in some people. Stick to simple, healthy meals if you’re planning to eat dinner on the later side.
  6. Soak up some sun. Exposure to plenty of sunlight during the day helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Vitamin D has also been linked to better sleep quality and quantity.
  7. Have a set bedtime and wake-up time. This strengthens sleep cycles and can help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed.
  8. Create a pre-zzzs routine. Doing the same things every night to wind down helps the body recognize that it’s bedtime. Take a warm shower or bath, cozy up with a book, meditate, make a cup of tea. Whatever feels good to you.
  9. Limit screen time 2 hours before bed. Save your work emails and that intense TV series for earlier in the evening.
  10. Create an inviting sleep environment. Invest in a comfortable, quality mattress and pillows and deliciously soft sheets. Make crawling into bed a treat!
  11. Keep it cool. Aim for a bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees for a good night’s sleep.
  12. Bring on the darkness. When you’re getting ready to hit the hay, avoid bright lights from lamps, cell phone and TV screens. Also, consider using blackout curtains (they come in all colors and can be quite lovely–it’s the densely woven fabric that blocks out the light!).
  13. Save your bed for sleeping. Working and generally hanging out in bed when you’re not sleeping has been shown to lead to more fragmented and shallow sleep.
  14. Shhhh. Even if you don’t live in the country, you can still create a quiet, peaceful place to lay your head. Loud noises, such as traffic and airplanes, disturb sleep even if you don’t remember them in the morning. Playing white noise, using earplugs or sound-proofing bedrooms can help.
  15. Don’t go to bed hungry. A growling tummy can keep you awake, so have a healthy snack–milk and cereal or half a turkey sandwich, both of which contain trypophan, an ingredient that helps you sleep, are good choices.
  16. Get up and do something else. If you feel frustrated because you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Instead, try reading or knitting or meditating in another room. Once your eyes start to droop, tuck yourself back in and give it another go.

For more on the sleep-health connection, check out: The Sleep Solution: Why Getting Enough Rest is Key to Good Health.

 

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