Sleep. We all need it, but nobody seems to get enough of it. SleepScore Labs reports over 60% of adults in the USA have poor sleep due to numerous health concerns and poor lifestyle choices. A lack of good sleep is linked to an increased chance of many different health problems; a good night’s rest provides us with repair and renewal of tissues due to the release of growth hormones. What lifestyle changes can we make to achieve a more balanced night's rest?
Cut down on screen time; in fact, make it a rule to have no screens in the bedroom. Bedrooms are for sleep! The blue light emitted from cell phones, tablets and laptops messes with our melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone primarily produced by your pineal gland and regulates your sleep and wake cycle. Blue light makes our bodies think it is daytime, when in fact it is not.
Limiting screen time is a big factor in getting better sleep. But, we love our screens so there are other options. Download f.lux or a similar app for your computer and smartphone that adjusts the color and brightness of your screen based on timezone.
Second, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses when looking at screens at night. Also note that blue light isn’t harmful during the day, just at night when our bodies are prepping for sleep. Blue light during the day hours is beneficial and helps sync us up for creating a balanced circadian rhythm. Get enough daylight in the day, especially morning, but not after the sun goes down. It is all about balance!
Exercise! Consistent daytime exercise helps your body release endorphins which create a balance in mood and energy. Make sure not to do heavy exercise within three hours of your sleeptime. Light exercise such as yoga, stretching and walking are fine before bed, but no intense training. Exercising in late afternoon is best because your body temperature rises and has time to drop to a cool enough temperature before sleep.
Try cutting back on caffeine. Everyone knows too much caffeine during the day or too late in the day can keep you wired. Limit yourself to before-lunch coffee only or switch to a herbal tea like Rooibos, which has no caffeine. If you are caffeine-sensitive, dark chocolate or hot cocoa may keep you awake because they too contain caffeine.
Herbal teas and certain supplements can be supportive in creating healthy sleep, but they can’t do all the work. Make sure to also be trying other lifestyle changes that will contribute to good rest. Calming herbs such as passionflower, chamomile, and valerian taken in tea, tincture or pill form can be beneficial.
Other non-herbal supplements such as melatonin can be helpful for some people, I take it when I am feeling wound up and energized at night. Remember melatonin is also created naturally in the body when it starts to get dark out. As we age, our bodies produce less melatonin; and light interrupts your melatonin production, telling you to be awake.
How much melatonin should you take? Start out with a small amount, around 0.5-3mg 60-90 minutes before you sleep. You don’t want to overdo it with melatonin or you may feel groggy the next day.
Glycine is a pretty neat non-essential amino acid. Participants took three grams of glycine in a 2007 sleep study for efficacy. Volunteers noticed better sleep quality and less daytime sleepiness the following day. I love glycine as a sleep aid, I use three grams of powder in water. It is naturally sweet tasting so it’s very good. I am a light sleeper and notice my sleep is much deeper and sounder with glycine.
Create a sleep routine by going to bed at the same time every night. This helps your circadian rhythm stay balanced. Invest in an aromatherapy diffuser and use lavender essential oil to help with peace and calming. Set your room to have the optimal sleeping temperature between 60-73 degrees. A slightly cool room temperature will help you sleep better. Drink tea before bed or have a bath; your core body temperature dropping after the bath can help you sleep better. Establish a ritual that you will look forward to and stick to, and that works well for you.
Now that you have all these good tips for sleeping better, you can address any issues you may be having. Being chronically tired isn’t normal and you shouldn’t have to live your life frazzled. Small steps can make a big difference. Focus on your sleep and you will function at the top of your game!
by Brittney Goodman
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