Sleep Your Way To A Healthier You

Do you ever wake up and feel as tired as you were when your head hit the pillow the night before? During the day, do you feel moody or can’t concentrate? If so, you may not be getting enough sleep. Inadequate sleep negatively affects your overall health by increasing your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Insufficient sleep also contributes to weight gain by affecting hormones that regulate your appetite. Studies show that adults who do not get an adequate amount of sleep demonstrate more hunger, a greater appetite for unhealthy, calorie-dense foods, and decreased energy to put towards physical activity.

How much is enough sleep? That depends upon age. According to the National Sleep Foundation, school age children need 9-11 hours; teens, 8-10 hours; adults, 7-9 hours; and, older adults (65+), 7-8 hours. Over 79% of American adults are getting less than the recommended minimum 7 hours each night.

I always make an effort to eat well (I’m a Registered Dietitian) and stay physically active (I’m a runner and cyclist), but getting that minimum of 7 hours of sleep AND sleeping well is a challenge. After researching and trying several tips to get “my dream sleep”, I’d like to share some that have worked for me.

Stick to a sleep schedule
Having a consistent sleep pattern improves the quality of your sleep. I’m in bed, lights out at 11:00 pm and wake up 6:30 pm seven days a week! On the weekends, I stay in bed for an hour and read or do Sudoku puzzles.

Establish a bedtime ritual
I really look forward to my relaxing pre-sleep routine which begins in bed at 10:30 pm. I take three deep breaths, drink a small cup of chamomile tea, listen to sleep music and read. I “power down” my blue light devices (laptop and phone) by 8:30 PM.

Avoid caffeine in the afternoons   
I am sensitive to the effects of caffeine, so I avoid consuming containing beverages after 3 PM. In general, you should also limit coffee to 400-mg/day, which is no more than four 8-oz cups of coffee. Keep in mind, the average size of coffee cups these days is 12- to 16-oz, so drinking four of those cups would exceed 400-mg.

Research shows that coffee, drunken six hours before bedtime, can still affect sleep quality. (Photo by Nathan Dumlao)

Use lavender as aromatheraphy
The oil from this plant slows your heartbeat, relaxing muscles and enhances sleep. The two quick sprays of Lavender Pillow Mist I squirt on my pillow really clears and relaxes my mind.

Don’t take a good night’s sleep for granted. Find and stick with the sleep tips that work best for you. Pleasant Dreams!

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