Friday, May 8, 2015

Sleep Strategies

Wow! I created quite a stir with the last post. Many people have trouble falling or staying asleep and were dismayed to hear how important sleep is to their health. To help the frustrated readers, I will share a few sleep strategies this week, followed up with a post on sleep supplements and complete the series with a post on meditation. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not sleep well either!

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity.  For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested. What are some strategies can we use to sleep well?

Your bedroom should be quiet, cool and dark. Use ear plugs or a white noise machine. Use a ceiling fan or air conditioner. Wear a sleep mask and use light-blocking curtains.  Eliminate the TV and computer from your bedroom. The light from electronic devices can disrupt the sleep cycle. Short wavelength blue light, the exact kind that backlit devices shine into the user's eye, is especially good at preventing the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with nighttime drowsiness.

Go to bed and wake at the same time every day. Reserve one hour to wind down before bed. Avoid electronics and dim the lights during this hour. Practice a quiet hobby, read fiction or try some relaxing stretching. Go to bed when you are tired - avoid fighting sleep to fit in more work and avoid falling asleep on the couch.

Be active in the morning or early afternoon. Even just 20 minutes of exercise a day can make a big difference. Try exercising outside. Exposure to natural light helps maintain a healthy sleep/wake cycle, especially for those whose jobs keep them indoors.

Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can all disrupt the sleep cycle. Skip that mid-afternoon latte and limit yourself to one glass of wine at dinner time. Quit smoking altogether - for multiple reasons! Restrict liquids two hours before bedtime to reduce night-time bathroom trips. Avoid eating before bed as this requires the digestive system to continue to work while you are trying to relax your body.  

Try a couple of these strategies for a restful night. 
Get Some Sleep, Stay Active and Enjoy Your Food!

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