How to get good sleep every night
After the long, dark days of winter, Daylight Savings Time signals the coming of spring when the days start getting longer (finally!). While losing one hour of sleep for this occasion is not cause for concern, consistently missing out on high quality sleep is; sleep is a time when the body can rest, recover, and heal from the stress it undergoes on a daily basis. It’s an important, but often overlooked, aspect of physical wellness. Research shows that sleep impacts many areas of health, but here’s a brief overview of some of the heaviest hit when sleep is lacking:
- Increased risk of chronic disease – this includes hypertension (high blood pressure), higher BMI (body mass index), diabetes, and chronic inflammation
- Increased appetite – sleep helps balance hunger and satiety hormones so sleep deprivation may contribute to cravings, poor food choices, and possible weight gain
- Increased risk of driving accidents – drowsy driving is as much of a problem as other types of distracted driving, just like texting or driving under the influence
How does FOOD affect sleep?
It can help by increasing the availability of tryptophan, found in poultry, dairy, and eggs. This essential amino acid undergoes a series of chemical changes to end up as the hormone melatonin, which helps support our natural circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. However, research is mixed as to whether dietary changes really impact blood levels of tryptophan. Eating smaller, lighter meals and avoiding eating for about two hours before bedtime can also help with falling and staying asleep.
It can hurt if you consume a large, rich, or heavily spiced meal. This can lead to acid reflux, discomfort, or more frequent trips to the bathroom, all of which are very disruptive when trying to get a restful night’s sleep.
How does EXERCISE affect sleep?
It can help increase energy throughout the day, leaving you just tired enough to quickly fall asleep at night. Exercise can also help people to sleep more soundly with fewer disturbances, which results in a more restorative sleep session.
It can hurt if you exercise too close to bedtime; besides the extra energy you may have, you may also have an increased body temperature for several hours afterwards. It’s generally easier to fall asleep when our body temperature is lower, so try to get your workout in earlier in the day if possible.
How does STRESS affect sleep?
It can help by….well, it really doesn’t help at all. Stress contributes to the poor health consequences mentioned earlier, so make sleep a priority. Setting a schedule, committing to your sleep routine, and focusing on eliminating or reducing disruptors will go a long way towards improving sleep quality and leave you feeling more rested.
The ENVIRONMENT is another factor that affects sleep quality, so try to:
- Create a calm space. Clutter and disorganization is not only unsightly, but can add to stress levels, too. That’s the last thing we need before lying down at night, so make an effort to keep the bedroom looking neat and tidy. You can also invest in high quality sheets, add top blankets in layers to help control temperature, and do your homework to find a pillow that best suits your preferred sleeping position. All of this helps create a space conducive to catching some major ZZZs.
- Shut down those electronics! In the digital world we live in, this is easier said than done. But resist the urge to check social media, email, or news updates before going to bed. It can sustain an over-stimulated state, making it harder to turn down thoughts and prepare for sleep. Additionally, the blue and yellow light emitted from digital screens is in the spectrum that disrupts sleep the most because it interferes with melatonin, a natural sleep-inducing hormone.
- Use soothing scents. Check out the easy DIY project below for one simple way to add another level of relaxation to your nightly routine!
And finally: Know when to take a break and just…rest. It’s easy to over-commit; we’ve all done it, and it can be hard to say “no” to things. But knowing when to step back is important, so be able to recognize when you need to. Whether that means hitting the sheets earlier than normal, foregoing a workout to relax instead, or postponing social plans, you’ll get more benefit from this in the long run.
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DIY Soothing Linen Spray
10 drops of Lavender essential oil (or substitute your favorite scent)
1 oz. of witch hazel (to dilute the essential oil to be able to mix with water)
3 oz. water
Jar or bottle with lid and spray attachment
Small funnel (optional, but very helpful)
- In a small jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid, add the 10 drops of essential oil with 1 oz. witch hazel. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds to combine.
- Open the lid, add the water, replace lid, and shake for an additional 20 seconds.
- Replace the lid with the spray attachment and seal tightly.
- Spray on sheets, pillows, blankets, curtains, etc. and sleep well!
**Caution: some essential oils may be harmful for poisonous to pets. Use care when selecting scents, and keep out of reach of children and animals.