THE POWER OF GOOD SLEEP, AND 4 WAYS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

If good sleep is essential for protecting our physical and mental health, then why are we not getting enough of it? Here’s how you can make the most of your bedtime.


BY: JILL CLODFELTER-MASON, RDN, CD

Have you ever lost sleep over life – working long hours, studying for exams, catching up with dear friends and family members during visits, tending to unexpected emergencies?  

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably had some rough nights. In fact, research indicates that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. experiences sleep deprivation. And when we don’t obtain an adequate amount of sleep, it can negatively affect our health.         Let’s start with the obvious –

When we don’t obtain enough sleep, we feel crappy, moody, and exhausted.

Combine this with the fact that insufficient sleep can negatively impact our ability to remember things and think clearly – and it’s understandable why it’s more challenging to perform at our best when sleep-deprived.

In addition to negatively affecting our cognitive function – which can potentially lead to depression – insufficient sleep may contribute to inflammation in the body, and the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  

For example, some recent research suggests that even just one night of poor sleep may induce insulin resistance.  With time, insulin resistance can lead to developing Type 2 diabetes, and may also be disruptive for the A1C levels in people who are living with Type 2 diabetes.  Poor sleep has also been linked to increased appetites through the hunger hormone, ghrelin, while also reducing the levels of the hormone, leptin – which is a hormone that decreases a person’s appetite.  

There’s no doubt that getting an adequate amount of sleep can help you feel better – mentally, emotionally, and physically, and may reduce your chances of developing some chronic health conditions.  In fact, obtaining adequate sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being.

In general, The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults obtain 7-9 hours of sleep.  With this in mind, here are a few ways to start getting in more Z’s through the night.     

1. Determine a consistent bedtime – and let the people in your life know about it.  

You work hard, and you deserve to practice self-care.  With this in mind, if some of your friends, family, colleagues, or anyone else have made it a habit of contacting you during your future bedtime, let them know that you will no longer be available at this hour.  

If it’s tough for you to set this boundary, consider releasing the guilt before continuing to retain your new boundaries.  Remember, you are worthy.  You deserve to feel well rested, and empower your well-being in the process!  

2. Create a bedtime routine.  

Turn the electronics off at least 30 minutes before heading to bed, then do something relaxing that you actually enjoy.  This may mean taking a hot bath, meditating, reading something mellow, writing in a journal, or listening to soothing music.  

For a simple deep breathing exercise, give this a try. First, inhale deeply for 3-5 seconds – tuning into the different sensations in your body. Next, exhale for 3-5 seconds – tuning into the different sensations in your body.  Repeat this process three more times, and pay close attention to how your body feels.

3. Make your bedroom comfortable.   

If possible, lower the temperature of your bedroom before you head to bed, and keep the bedroom’s humidity in check.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends maintaining a nighttime bedroom temperature of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity within a range of 30% to 50%.  This humidity range is for the purpose of keeping enough water in the air to breathe more easily, but dry enough that you’re comfortable.

Make your bedroom your relaxation station that’s dedicated solely to rest, relaxation, and intimacy – versus a place where you squeeze in some work.  Keep your room dark by using blackout shades/curtains or a sleep mask. If you’d rather get hit by a bus than part with your cell phone when you go to bed, use the night mode. The blue light waves emitted from your cell phone makes it harder to sleep because it can decrease the amount of the sleep hormone, melatonin, that’s generated in the body.  If you experience some unwanted noise, try something like “white noise” as a relaxing buffer.

4. Be mindful of when you exercise or consume caffeine and alcohol.

Some people find that activity too close to bedtime can keep them awake.  Experiment with moving your body at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed.

Because caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant, the National Sleep Foundation recommends refraining from consuming caffeinated beverages at least 4-6 hours prior to heading to bed, and avoiding alcohol at least four hours before you go to sleep.  While alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, it blocks the most recuperative form of sleep – REM sleep.  This means that when you wake up the next day, you’re more likely to feel tired, in addition to finding it more challenging to focus.  

Does this mean that you should never consume caffeine or alcohol later than usual? Nope, it’s all about balance.  You can use this information to determine if the benefits of consuming caffeine later in the day – or some alcohol before you go to bed – outweigh sleeping as well for the night.  

The bottom line is that you deserve to sleep well, and empower your emotional, physical, and mental well-being in the process.  Experiment with these tips, and see what works best for you.

Remember, it’s your body – and your life.  

Adapted from the original article.

Jill Clodfelter-Mason, RDN, CD,  is a private practice dietitian, health coach, food blogger, and owner of Cultivate Joy Nutrition in central Indiana. She assists her  clients with developing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. Jill’s mission is to help women overcome the ‘shoulds’ that rule their lives, so they can become fully present in celebrating delicious, nourishing foods and reconnecting with who they are – mind, body, and soul. To learn more about Jill, check out her website, www.cultivatejoynutrition.com, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook @cultivatejoynutrition.

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