Sleep is as essential to our good health as proper diet, exercise and stress management. It can be hard to keep top of mind when it’s the last thing we do every day, but good sleep can make a significant difference and improvement to your waking hours. While sleep aids like the over-the-counter (OTC) Vitamin E Softgel can help regulate your body’s sleep cycle, we can also be proactive in building daily habits that trains our bodies to rest well. Improving your sleep quality will have a positive effect on your weight, mental clarity, heart health, metabolism, and immune system, just to name a few.
Benefits of Good Sleep
Mental Capacity. Your mind rests in a necessary way when you are asleep. When your brain has had adequate sleep, your memory is sharper. You are also better able to retain information and learn a new skill, language, or practice if you have first slept well.
Prevent Inflammation. Studies have shown that when you get less than six hours of sleep per night, there are higher inflammatory proteins in the blood than if you slept over six hours. It is helpful to prevent inflammation because inflammation can lead to more serious conditions like diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and heart issues.
De-stress with Sleep. Stress can affect cardiovascular health because it is a factor that causes high blood pressure, which leads to heart problems. Better sleep causes a positive chain reaction by helping reduce stress. Another cardiovascular benefit is that sleep is believed to help lower cholesterol levels as well.
More Effective Weight Loss. Sleep is an unexpectedly important part of your weight management plan. If you are working to lose or gain weight to improve your physical health, you already know there are multiple components like diet and exercise. But sleep will actually help you lose more body fat, and improve metabolism so that your appetite and digestion is more optimal. Fatigue will cause your blood hormones to encourage hunger.
How to Improve Sleep
Caffeine Cut-off. Depending on each individual, and your specific sensitivity to caffeine, it should be okay to have your morning coffee. However, you may need to move up your cut-off time for caffeine earlier than dinner. Avoiding an after-dinner coffee or tea may not be enough. It helps you fall asleep when all the caffeine in your system has worn off. If stopping caffeine intake at 2pm isn’t making a difference, then move up your caffeine cut-off to lunchtime.
When to Wine. The good news is that you can replace one drink for another. While caffeine can keep you up, wine can help ease you to sleep. However, you may not be aware that drinking alcohol right before you sleep is not the best time. Having alcohol that close to your bedtime may impact the later parts of your sleep cycle, so it is more effective to have wine closer to dinner.
Cozy up Right. Another common misconception is that getting warm and cozy will help put your body to sleep. A hot shower or bath right before bed actually counteracts your goal of drifting off to sleep easily. While it might feel comforting, your body actually falls asleep better when it is at a cooler temperature. A hot bath raises your body temperature, and you will need time for your temperature to lower again before you can sleep well. Try suggestions from the next step to get cozy without raising your body temperature.
Unplug and Unwind. An activity you can do that can help train your mind and body to relax is to set an alarm for an hour or two before you want to go to bed to remind yourself it’s time to unwind. A helpful part of unwinding is unplugging: turn off the television or electronic devices, stop using your phone and computer. Intentionally spend time doing things you find calming. Try reading, journaling, reflecting or meditating, or listening to soothing music. Your body will learn that the step that comes after these repeated activities is sleep!
It might take a few tries to develop these habits, but it is well worth it, and you are more than capable of making one change at a time. Let your spouse, family or friends know how you are trying to improve your sleep, and ask them to remind you or encourage you. The benefits that come from proper sleep and rest will be more than reward itself.