Article at a glance
- Sleep is a biological necessity that many people fail to prioritize. It affects memory, weight, cognitive and physical performance, as well as long term brain health.
- Some tips to help maximize sleep include; creating a sleep schedule, eliminating electronics two hours before bed, creating a cool and dark sleep environment, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine prior to bed, practicing meditation, eating a diet that promotes melatonin production, and exercising daily.
Most people know that a good night's sleep is essential, but very few prioritize time between the sheets. Sleep is a time for memory consolidation; it promotes a healthy weight; it improves performance both cognitively and physically, and protects against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Virtually all body systems are impacted by poor or inadequate sleep. Yet, one in three American adults does not get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The most effective way to master this pillar of health and reach sleep nirvana is to exercise a nightly routine. Here are a few helpful tips that will eliminate the need to count sheep.
Implement a sleep schedule and stick to it seven days a week. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help your internal clock work for you instead of against you, helping you to sleep better at night. Make the change to your sleep schedule gradually for a more effortless adjustment.
Eliminate electronics. Phones, games, and computers have become such a massive part of our daily lives that we often take them to bed. Screens emit a blue light that inhibits the production of melatonin, a critical hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Shut down all electronics 2 hours before bed to better your chances of making dreams your reality.
Create an ideal sleep environment. Sleep cycles are typically initiated when our core body temperatures drops, and when melatonin is secreted under dark conditions. Keeping your room as dark as possible and dropping the temperature to 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit can facilitate falling asleep and staying asleep.
Eradicate common sleep villains like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine at least 4 hours before sleep. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants designed to wake you up. While alcohol might make you feel sleepy initially, it also disrupts sleep, later on, leading to less restful sleep overall.
Practice meditation or other calming activities leading up to lights out. Meditation has been shown to increase sleep time and improve sleep quality. Not into introspection? Try reading a book, sipping on some sleepy time tea, or taking a bath to prepare your mind and body for rest.
Eat and move mindfully. Certain foods can help promote sleep by affecting sleep hormones like melatonin and serotonin. Higher intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, and certain fruits like tart cherries, bananas, and kiwis are associated with better sleep and improved melatonin levels. Additionally, moderate amounts of aerobic exercise has been found to increase the amount of deep sleep you get. It's important not to exercise too close to sleep, though, as it can hinder sleep by raising your core body temperature and releasing those feel-good endorphins. Exercising no more than 1-2 hours before going to bed will provide the time necessary to "come down" from exercise to get to sleep.