Carol (Missy) Cohen MPH, CHHC

5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Tonight!

Did you know that lack of sleep can make you fat? Being sleep deprived reduces the production of a hormone called leptin in our bodies and it is this hormone that controls our hunger signals. That is one reason why you might tend to eat more when you work an overnight shift.

Sleep also has a multitude of other benefits, including:

  • Increasing our ability to be alert and have more energy
  • Allowing us to just generally function better
  • Improving our moods including anxiety, depression and irritability
  • Allowing muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone which all occur mostly when we sleep
  • Increasing a person’s ability to learn and remember things. (The next time your child wants to stay up late to study for an exam, encourage them to go to bed. They are more likely to do well on the exam after a good’s night sleep than by studying for two more hours.)
  • Decreasing the risk of diseases and other health problems including diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
  • Improving decision making abilities. Do you ever notice how much easier to deal with problems seem after a good night’s sleep?

if you are like the average adult, sleep seems like a really good idea but you just can’t quite pull off a full night’s sleep. Perhaps you have no problem falling asleep but wake up in the early morning hours and can’t get back to sleep. Or you might wake several times during the night and go right back to sleep but recognize that this interrupted sleep is not serving you well.

There are some things that you can do to improve your sleep that do not involve taking medication. You can practice “good sleep hygiene:”

  • Shut off any screens at least 1 hour before you go to bed. The light from the screens confuses our bodies and results in the suppression of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us to stay asleep.
  • Along a similar theme, keep all the lights around you dim for at least 2 hours prior to bed. Bright, artificial lights tend to confuse our bodies into thinking that it is still daytime. By dimming the lights, you are producing more of a natural light rhythm that your body can adjust to.
  • Do not do anything that would cause you stress before bed. This means do not check your email which you shouldn’t be doing anyway since the computer is a screen. Do not read a disturbing book or try to study for a test. All these things cause your stress level to rise which increases cortisol. Cortisol is basically the opposite hormone of melatonin and you want your cortisol level reduced at bedtime, not elevated.
  • Take a relaxing bath. You can add lavender essential oil to help you sleep and light candles to keep the lighting dim.
  • If you do need to exercise closer to bedtime, practice a mind/body method such as yoga or tai chi. Do the more strenuous types of exercise earlier in the day since strenuous exercise releases cortisol and that will interfere with your sleep.

If you continue to suffer from insomnia after trying these tips on a regular basis for a month, please contact me. Sleep is so important, and good, high-quality sleep will improve your health and your life

I’d like to hear from you! What kind of things do you do to improve your sleeping?

Resources:

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/inso/

 

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