Easy Ways to Improve Sleep

Many people have trouble falling and staying asleep at night. Here are some great tips on how to change up your bedtime routine to improve your quality of sleep.

Create a Sleep Routine and Stick To It

Your body works better on a schedule. If you are going to bed and waking up at different times each day and the amount of sleep you are getting varies, your body will not work efficiently. Set a time to go to bed and a time to wake up each morning. If you stick to your sleep schedule, your body will naturally fall into it. It will be easier to fall asleep at night and you will wake up feeling rested in the morning.

All Naps Are Not Created Equal

According to the National Sleep Foundation website, taking a short “power nap” increases your energy level and alertness. Longer naps can cause you to feel groggy when you first wake up, postponing the benefits of a midday nap. The exception is if you take naps in 90-minute increments. A full sleep cycle is 90 minutes. If you have the time, a 90-minute nap can increase memory and creativity while avoiding the groggy period following medium-length naps.

Prepare for Sleep

Have you ever wondered why it is easier to fall asleep in the dark than when your bedroom is lit up by lamplight or sunlight? Your body produces melatonin, a hormone that helps your body fall asleep. When you create a dark, comfortable sleep environment, your brain will queue your body to begin producing melatonin. Preparing for sleep by dimming light and stopping the use of electronics an hour or so before bedtime will let your body know that it is time to slow down and prepare for sleep. It is also important to make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive and that your bedroom is quiet, uncluttered, and at a comfortable temperature.

Staying Asleep

It is also important to limit all light in your bedroom, including lit-up alarm-clock faces and red and blue lights on electronics and phone screens. Any amount of bright light, especially LED, white, and blue light, can disrupt the production of melatonin and your quality of sleep. If you prefer some light, limit it to soft, yellow light.

Limit Sugar and Alcohol Before Bed

Refined sugar before bed can inhibit your ability to fall asleep easily, and alcohol can reduce your quality of sleep. Foods high in refined sugar cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a steep decline in blood-sugar levels later. The increase in blood sugar can make it hard to fall asleep. The decline in blood-sugar levels while you are asleep is one of the main causes of waking during the night.

Similarly, though a glass of red wine before bed can help you fall asleep, it can cause you to wake more often during the night. According to an April 2013 study conducted by the London Sleep Centre-Neuropsychiatry, “…alcohol increases slow-wave ‘deep’ sleep during the first half of the night, but then increases sleep disruptions in the second half of the night.” If you feel hungry before bed, try a sweet low-sugar snack like berries instead.

No TV Time

Falling asleep while watching television is a popular habit in many households. According to a 2014 consumer survey conducted by LG Electronics USA, 61% of Americans fall asleep with the television on. Watching television is more distracting than relaxing.   Television keeps your body awake and hinders the body functions that promote sleep. Most often, television stimulates the mind and body, and does not help to slow breathing or relax muscles.

Now that you have some good tips for a better sleep…Happy Dreaming!

Four Vitamins and Minerals for a Good Night’s Sleep

Our whole lives, we have been told by parents, doctors, teachers, the media, and even our government that it is very important to incorporate foods into our diets that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals support our bodies’ functions by increasing the efficiency of our bodies’ systems. Sleep is one of our most important functions because it allows us to rest, renew, and detoxify during the night. A good, deep rest also supports cell regeneration.

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Some vitamins and minerals that support sleep are Vitamin D, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and potassium.

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Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to cause daytime sleepiness. As our modern lives get busier, we are getting outside less than previous generations. Less time outside means we are getting less exposure to the sun, and therefore, not producing enough Vitamin D.

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You can easily and naturally increase your Vitamin D by spending a bit more time outside, though it takes 2-3 months of regular sun exposure to build up the Vitamin D your body needs. Other options include adding fortified cereal or milk to your diet or taking a Vitamin D supplement.

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Magnesium and Vitamin B6 are important minerals our bodies need for a good night’s rest. Both nutrients are imperative to the production of melatonin, a hormone produced by our bodies to help us feel sleepy. Magnesium deficiency can lead to insomnia. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, beans and various nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Salmon, halibut, and tuna are good sources of Vitamin B6.

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Potassium has been shown to help people stay asleep and have a deeper, more restful sleep. Though we think of bananas as a potassium-rich option, winter squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and yogurt provide more potassium per serving.

Making sure you are getting enough of these four vitamins and minerals will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better and longer.

Check out the following articles for more information on the benefits of adding these vitamins and minerals to your daily diet.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501666/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/10686624/Vitamin-D-could-it-stop-modern-diseases.html

http://www.newswise.com/articles/scientists-identify-second-sleep-gene

What Happens to Your Body When It’s Deprived of Sleep?

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We all know how it feels to have a restless night. You feel irritable, dizzy, and unfocused throughout the next day. But when you are chronically sleep deprived, it can be seriously detrimental to your health. It can affect your body in many ways and in several different places.

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Body Fat– People who get only a few hours of sleep per night tend to have more body fat than those who get a full night’s rest. The lack of sleep/energy is compensated for the following day by consuming extra calories.

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Stomach– Lack of sleep leads to a lower production of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger and the storage of fat.

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Motor Skills– After being awake for an extended period of time, you will notice a loss of precision in your motor skills. There is a delayed reaction from your brain in signaling a physical response.

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Blood Pressure– Someone who sleeps very little on a regular basis will have much higher blood pressure than if they slept more. This is due to increased amounts of cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress.

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Pancreas– People who are regularly deprived of sleep are twice as likely to develop diabetes, regardless of age or fitness level. The regulation of other hormone production is disrupted as well.

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Heart– Cardiovascular issues tend to develop in a large portion of people who have chronic sleep problems. The issues can range from weak or abnormal heartbeats to clogged arteries, or even cardiac arrest.

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Brain– In a period of just a few days, you can damage and kill brain cells by not getting enough sleep at night. Without precious sleep, your brain cannot rid itself of proteins that cause plaque build-up. Over time, this plaque can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

To learn more about the physical effects of sleep deprivation, check out this article by Arianne Cohen, called 7 Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation, from the Psyche section of Details.