We all know how important sleep can be to our mental and physical health. Scientists have discovered that sleep helps us with our immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and other vital functions.
A lack of sleep results in insulin resistance, weight gain, elevated blood pressure and higher cortisol levels. When you don't get enough rest your body starts to change:
- Insufficient sleep affects the hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
- Ghrelin is the “appetite” hormone. It signals the brain that it is time to eat. If you are not getting enough sleep, your body makes more ghrelin.
- Leptin is the “fullness” hormone. Leptin tells your brain you are full. Also, when your leptin levels plummet from sleep-deprivation, your mind is slow to receive the cue to stop eating.
- Sleep impacts your metabolism. Lack of sleep reduces your response to insulin. Low energy and an increase in weight result from insulin resistance.
- Lack of sleep can increase blood pressure and cortisol levels.
Consistently getting quality sleep is essential for everyone, no matter what age.
Try these tips to improve your sleep:
- Get enough sleep. The ideal amount of sleep for most people is somewhere between seven and nine hours a night.
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time on a daily basis.
- The more hours of sleep you get before midnight the more restorative sleep you will get. Aim for a bedtime of no later than 10 p.m.
- Sleep only at bedtime. Don't take naps, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
- Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine intake, especially after 3 p.m. It can take up to eight hours to eliminate caffeine from the body.
- Avoid screen time of any kind one to two hours before bed. The blue light emitted by screens lowers your sleep hormones.
- Do something relaxing before bed like listening to music, take an Epsom salt bath with your favorite scented oil, meditate or try deep breathing exercises.
- Download the free Calm app. Sounds of nature create an immediate sense of serenity. With 16 free meditations, guided or not, with sessions ranging from three to 30 minutes each, there are many options for relaxation. There are meditations for beginners and meditations which focus on a variety of concerns and needs, such as the 7 Days of Managing Stress, Deep Sleep and the Breaking Habits series. The Sleep Stories for adults soothe the mind, and help power down the day, enabling a deeper and more restorative night’s sleep.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible and remove or turn off all unnecessary electronic devices.
- Exposure to sunlight helps too. Strive for 15 to 30 minutes of real sunlight per day, ideally in the morning.
- Avoid eating, watching TV, reading or working in bed.
- Go to bed only when you feel sleepy.
- If you lie awake for more than 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you get tired.
- Get regular exercise, but don't do a hard workout within two hours of going to bed.
- Review your prescription and non-prescription medications with a pharmacist to rule out side effects that affect your sleep.
Getting a good night's sleep makes us feel ready to take on the world, and keeps us healthy and happy. Follow these tips and your restless nights will become few and far between.