10 Tips For Better Sleep Tonight

Published 21 July 2007
We all know how important a good night's sleep is; it affects our productivity, focus, mood, energy and performance. Sleep is also important for protection from cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Did you know that sleep is also beauty rest? We now know it enhances the hormones that rebuild our skin, bones and muscles and it is also essential for weight loss. Studies show sleep-deprived individuals are more overweight.

There's a trick though - sleep has to be done properly and in the right amounts in order for people to receive these benefits. I bet you never thought there was a right and wrong way to sleep, did you?

If you currently experience sleep issues such as problems falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early or whether you are simply interested in optimizing your sleep habits for weight loss, anti-aging and wellness, I have the perfect tips for you. Let's get started!

Lights Out!

• Your room should be as dark as possible (you should not be able to see your hand in front of your face). When light hits your eyes, it disrupts production of the hormone melatonin. Studies have shown that even a small amount of light can cause a decrease in melatonin levels which can affect sleep and may raise cancer risks, heart disease and diabetes risk.
• Melatonin can also influence our ability to lose weight because without the release of melatonin, we have less growth hormone production. Growth hormone works to repair and maintain metabolically-active muscle tissue while we sleep.
• Do not turn on the light if you go to the bathroom during the night. Even brief exposure to light can shut down melatonin production. However, be sure to open the blinds first thing in the morning. Letting in the daylight and the sounds of the morning imprints the stimulus associated with awakening in the brain. This is the proper way to reset your body clock and will ensure that your melatonin levels stay set on "awake" until the evening. Exposing yourself to natural light has also been found to significantly increase energy levels throughout the day.

Create the Perfect Sleep Space

• Keep your bedroom cool - not warmer than 70°F. We naturally feel sleepier when we are cold or are cooling down than when our body temperature is rising.
• Use your bed for sleeping and sex only. Avoid other activities in bed as you may start to associate the bedroom with more stimulating activities and not as the place to sleep.
• Purchase a white noise device or try running a fan if you find that you are easily awakened by sounds.
• Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Waking up suddenly can be a shock to your body and can cause stress. Actually, if you are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm clock should be unnecessary. Sleeping through an alarm or needing an alarm daily indicates that you may be sleep deprived. If you do use an alarm, you should awaken just before it goes off. The Bose alarm, one that slowly gets louder, is the best to use if you need one.
• Keep digital alarm clocks as far away from the bed possible - at least 3 feet. These and other electric devices can disrupt the production of melatonin and serotonin hormones that are essential for good sleep and may have other negative effects including increased risk of cancer.

Make Every Minute Count

• The optimal amount of sleep is between 7 ½ to 8 ½ hrs per night.
• Teenagers need 9 ½ hours; children require even more sleep.
• The American Cancer Association found higher incidences of cancer in individuals who consistently slept six hours or less or more than nine hours nightly.
• However, some people may require more or less sleep than others.
• If you awaken without an alarm and if you feel rested upon rising, you are most likely getting enough sleep.
• Avoid napping or keep naps to a maximum of 30 minutes. It is best to stay awake until the evening.

Schedule your Zzzs

• Try to get to bed before 11 PM - optimally, by 10 PM. Since the invention of electricity we have stayed up later and later. This has resulted in a society that is, for the most part, sleep deprived. Our stress glands, the adrenals, recharge or recover mostly between 11 PM and 1 AM. Therefore, it is best to go to bed before 11 PM to rebuild your reserves.
• Establish regular sleeping hours. Try to get up each morning and go to bed each evening at the same time. Remember oversleeping can be as detrimental as sleep deprivation. How you feel each day is an important indication of the right amount of sleep for you.

Avoid Sleep-Interfering Drinks

Caffeine
• A dose of caffeine usually takes 15 to 30 minutes to take effect and lasts for four to five hours.
• It may be metabolized at different rates in different people. In some people, it may last much longer, making caffeine use in the afternoon a bad idea. If you do consume caffeine, limit your intake to 1 cup of organic coffee in the morning.
• Caffeine may also negatively affect the natural release cycle of the stress hormone cortisol. This can cause problems with falling asleep or waking between 2 and 4 AM.

Enlarge this Image Alcohol


• Although alcohol makes you drowsy, the effect is short-lived.
• The body metabolizes alcohol as you sleep, resulting in symptoms which can cause sleep interruption. Alcohol also may cause sleep disorders because it seems to affect the brain chemicals that affect sleep.
• Alcohol may influence:
• the amount of time it takes to fall asleep,
• total sleep time,
• the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.
• One glass of wine with dinner will most likely not affect your sleep since it takes about 90 minutes to metabolize one ounce of alcohol. However, one ounce within two hours of bedtime or amounts greater than one ounce may disrupt your sleep.

Maximize Nutrition Habits for Improved Sleep Patterns

• It is always best to avoid eating in the evening, not only from a weight loss perspective, but also for your sleep habits.
• If you feel you must eat, avoid bedtime snacks that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich snacks such as breads, cereals, muffins, cookies or other baked goods raise blood sugar levels for a short time, causing them to fall later.
• When there is a drop in blood sugar, adrenalin, glucagon, cortisol and growth hormone are released to regulate blood glucose levels. These hormones can be stimulating to the brain causing you to awaken and to experience difficulties falling back asleep.
• Eating before bed also raises your body temperature which interferes with the release of recuperative hormones while we sleep and interferes with weight loss.
• Try not to eat for at least two hours before going to bed. If you do need to eat something, have a snack that contains protein such as a few almonds and half of an apple.
• Protein provides a source of the amino acid tryptophan. The body converts tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin, hormones that are important for sleep. The sugars from the fruit may help the tryptophan reach the brain more easily.
• Also, avoid drinking fluids two hours before going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood, or the frequency, of urination during the night. If you have to go to the bathroom during the night, it is best not to turn on the light. Turning on the light, even for just a second, shuts down melatonin production and can contribute to fatigue or insomnia.

Beat Stress and Sleep Better

• When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol, our long-term stress hormone. This provides our body with energy to escape from stressful events and prepares our body to "fight or flight". It is a stimulating hormone. In small amounts, it is helpful, but in high amounts over long periods of time, it can be harmful.
• Cortisol is naturally highest in the morning then declines throughout the day and into the evening. It peaks slightly at 2 AM, 4 AM and then is at its highest again around 6 AM. If this pattern is disrupted, it may keep you awake, cause you to awaken or bring about problems falling back asleep.

You can improve sleep disruption due to stress by:

• Eating every 3 to 4 hours during the day and consuming protein each time you eat. For example, a protein shake for breakfast, an apple and a few nuts around 10 AM; a salad with sliced chicken and avocado at 1 PM, mid-afternoon snack and then dinner by 7 PM, or at the latest, 8 PM. Eating in this manner will balance your blood sugars and prevent mood and energy fluctuations throughout the day. It will also prevent elevations in stress hormone, since skipping a meal is a stress on the body. When stress hormones are high, they can interfere with our ability to stay and fall asleep.
• Exercise reduces stress hormone, but avoid doing long sessions of cardio (perhaps more than 40 minutes because it can further elevate stress hormones).
• More enjoyable ways to decrease stress hormones are massage, hugs and kissing.
• Try the herbal supplement RELORA (500 mg before bed with 100 mg of vitamin B6). It helps reduces cortisol and calms the mind. Relora can also help your libido and decrease your ab fat too!

Exercise Your Body and Mind

• Exercising improves sleep because it reduces stress hormones and is a physical exertion that's naturally followed by a relaxation response.
• Do not exercise late in the evening. Exercising within two to three hours before bedtime may be too stimulating and can impede your ability to fall asleep.
• To maximize the benefits of exercise on sleep, exercise three to six hours before bed. The body increases deep sleep to compensate for the physical stress exuded on the body during exercise.
• Exercise promotes healthy sleep patterns because of its positive effect on body temperature. After exercise, our body gradually cools down and we naturally feel sleepy when we are cooler or cooling down.
• Exercise your mind too! People who are intellectually and mentally stimulated during the day feel an increased need to sleep to maintain their performance. Disinterested or bored people seem to not sleep as well.
• It is always best to avoid eating in the evening, not only from a weight loss perspective, but also for your sleep habits.
• If you feel you must eat, avoid bedtime snacks that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich snacks such as breads, cereals, muffins, cookies or other baked goods raise blood sugar levels for a short time, causing them to fall later. When there is a drop in blood sugar, adrenalin, glucagon, cortisol and growth hormone are released to regulate blood glucose levels. These hormones can be stimulating to the brain causing you to awaken and to experience difficulties falling back asleep.
• Eating before bed also raises your body temperature which interferes with the release of recuperative hormones while we sleep and interferes with weight loss.
• Try not to eat for at least two hours before going to bed. If you do need to eat something, have a snack that contains protein such as a few almonds and half of an apple.
• Protein provides a source of the amino acid tryptophan. The body converts tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin, hormones that are important for sleep. The sugars from the fruit may help the tryptophan reach the brain more easily.
• Also, avoid drinking fluids two hours before going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood, or the frequency, of urination during the night. If you have to go to the bathroom during the night, it is best not to turn on the light. Turning on the light, even for just a second, shuts down melatonin production and can contribute to fatigue or insomnia.

Enlarge this Image Use Simple Supplements

• Our sleep quality has great impact on our wellness, just as our wellness has an impact on our sleep. In this line of thinking, there are four supplements I recommend daily to ensure continued wellness and healthy sleep patterns. These include:
• Multivitamin
• B vitamins aid energy during the day, while the minerals can improve your sleep at night.
• Remember a deficiency of just one nutrient is enough to cause a reduction in your metabolic rate - just like sleep deprivation does too!
• Omega-3 Fish Oils - especially one high in the DHA component fish oil. Take 2 to 4 grams per day.
• DHA fish oil is particularly beneficial for the brain and nervous system.
• It also protects the brain cells from the harmful effects of high stress hormones.
• Whey protein supplement - add it to your smoothies.
• Benefits:
• Most bioavailable protein source
• Enhances immunity
• Aids weight loss and builds muscle tissue
• Provides a source of amino acids to make the hormones important for sleep and body composition such as melatonin, serotonin and growth hormone
• Calcium-magnesium supplement in a citrate base in a 1:1 ratio (400 to 600 mg of each before bed is best).
• Magnesium is naturally calming, relaxes the mind and is known to improve sleep.
• Calcium is best incorporated into our bones while we are sleeping.

By Natasha Turner, ND

This article was brought to you by Truestar Health: The World's Most Comprehensive Nutrition, Fitness & Healthy Lifestyle Resource

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