For the next 26 weeks I will be sharing a different way you can become healthier in your daily life. Some of these suggestions have to do with food or exercise, others have to do with lifestyle changes, but all of them are practical and relatively easy to execute. You may already be practicing some of these habits, but hopefully you’ll be inspired by at least one or two new ideas you can begin to implement.
Get At Least 7-8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
Are you among the 40% of Americans who sleep less than 7 hours a night? If so, hopefully after you read this post you will be motivated to change your sleeping habits.
DANGERS OF TOO LITTLE SLEEP
Getting too little sleep damages the brain and increases one’s risk for cognitive problems. 5.5 hours is the very minimum amount of sleep needed for reasonable cognitive function, but individuals who get less than 6.8 hours a night cause their brains to shrink and decline. While we sleep, our brains clear toxins out of our bodies at twice the rate as when we’re awake. When these toxins are not removed, it causes a buildup in our brains which is associated with cognitive difficulties.
Insufficient sleep leads to depression, industrial disasters, job mistakes, and reduced productivity. In addition, depriving your body of sleep can lead to diabetes. Individuals who got less than 6 hours of sleep a night over a 6 year period were four times more likely to become prediabetic. Research shows that 7 hours of sleep a night is ideal to lower your risk for stroke. One study found that the later participants stayed up at night, the more difficult they found exercise to be. Poor sleep or lack of sleep disrupts your entire day. On the other hand, a good night’s rest sets you up for success all day long.
After an entire week of late nights and early mornings some mistakenly think sleeping in over the weekend is enough to “catch up on sleep”. A better fix is a good nap between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. But even a nap may not be enough to undo the cognitive damage already wrought in your brain from lack of sleep.
1. Pray. Perhaps you’re awake because God wants you to pray about something/someone. Whenever I have insomnia and begin to pray I find it is never too long before I drift off to sleep (probably because the devil doesn’t want me to be praying).
2. Drink cherry juice. Tart cherry juice has the naturally occurring hormone melatonin which helped study participants sleep an average of 84 more minutes more when they drank 8 ounces twice a day than when they were only given placebo juice.
3. Skip bedtime snacks. Eating within 3 hours of bedtime increases your risk for heartburn. It also forces your digestive system to work when it should be resting.
4. Minimize bathroom breaks. Don’t drink fluids within 2-3 hours of bedtime and use the restroom right before going to bed. Also, avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffeine.
5. Read before bed. Allowing your body to wind down before hitting the sack will relax you and prepare your mind to rest.
6. Exercise. Insomniacs who exercised 30-40 minutes four times per week slept an average of 75 minutes longer than those who did no exercise. Avoid exercising right before bed, however, because it can energize you and hinder you from falling asleep.
7. Unplug. Being exposed to technology within a couple of hours of trying to sleep always makes it more difficult to drift off. Avoid all forms of technology 2-3 hours before going to bed to ensure that you are able to sufficiently wind down. In addition, keep electronics out of the bedroom to minimize temptation.
8. Maintain a Rhythm. Develop a routine sleep and waking schedule so your body gets into a routine. This will help your body regulate its internal clock.
9. Stay away from Caffeine. Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can make falling asleep very difficult. Try not to consume any after 3pm to ensure your sleep pattern is not disrupted.
10. Avoid meds like Valium and Xanax. These may knock you out at night, but you probably won’t wake up feeling refreshed. Worse, you may be damaging your brain. Individuals who take bezodiazepines for more than 3 months are up to 51% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
11. Use Calming Essential Oils. Essential oils can be diffused or used topically to prepare you for a good night’s rest. Some calming oils I’d recommend are Lavendar, Bergamot, and Roman Chamomile.
12. Spend time outside daily. Have you ever spent the entire day at the beach and then felt exhausted by nighttime? Despite the fact you merely lounged in the sun all day, your body screamed for rest. A little fresh air and sunshine goes a long way.
13. Write down thoughts that keep you awake. Sometimes we think of something we forgot to put on our to-do list while struggling to drift off to sleep. Rather than allow that thought to keep you awake, take a moment to write it down and put your mind at ease.
14. Keep your bedroom cool and dark at night. Darkness produces melatonin, which is essential for your body to fall asleep. Also, being too warm causes disruptions in one’s sleep schedule.
Are you a night owl? If so, how can you arrange your schedule so you’re able to stay up later and still get in 7 hours of sleep a night?
Are you a morning person? What time do you need to start heading to bed in order to wake up at a convenient hour after 7 hours of sleep?
This one habit can dramatically change your life, just by giving you increased energy and by allowing you to be more efficient during the day. Do what works best for you, but make sleep a priority. You won’t regret it!