Easy Ways to Improve your Sleep

Restful sleep is essential for not only optimal mental functioning (concentration, memory, etc) but also for ideal hormonal balance. Numerous studies have linked the lack of sleep to increased rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer  (see our post on “Sleep and Your Health” ). If you are having trouble  falling asleep, waking up tired, or dragging through your day, below are some fairly simple ways you can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid snacks before bedtime, especially processed grains and sugars. These late night snacks will raise blood sugar and inhibit restful sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low, you might wake up and have trouble falling back asleep.
  • Sleep in complete darkness or as close to darkness as possible. The smallest amount of light in the room can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. If you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, make sure not to use a bright light.
  • Avoid using the computer or watching TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom. If your sleep routine involves watching TV to induce sleep, you are not sleeping as soundly as you could. Leave your bed for two things, sleep and well….you know. If you are always watching TV and/or on your laptop working in bed or surfing the web your body will associate your bed with those activities and it will be harder to get restful sleep.
  • Follow your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Try to get into bed with the lights out by 10pm and wake around 6am. Due to your body’s hormonal cycles, the two hours of sleep before midnight are important for helping you wake feeling completely rested.
  • Wear socks to bed. The feet have poor circulation and can get cold before the rest of the body. A recent study has shown that wearing socks can reduce your chance of waking.
  • Remove the clock from your view. Being able to see the clock can create more stress if you are having any trouble getting quality rest.
  • Establish a bed routine. Try to “wind-down” before bed time by turning off TVs and computers, as well as putting away work at least one hour before your scheduled bed time. Use this time to relax and dim the lights to calm your body and prepare for sleep.
  • If you are hungry and must eat something (see the first tip above), eat a high-protein snack with a small piece of fruit before bedtime. The protein can provide the L-trytophan (an amino acid) needed to produce melatonin and serotonin. The small piece of fruit will help the trytophan cross the blood-brain barrier.

I have seen many clients make significant strides in their health and weight loss goals by making small changes in their sleeping routines. Give some of these tips a try and see how much better you feel after getting the sleep you really need.