7 Ways to Establish and Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits
Have you plateaued on working toward your health goals? Have you felt like something is missing from your health routine? If so, we’d like to invite you to join us on the Circle of Wellness this month. While health care is a very personal and individual thing, it may help to know that you don’t have to do it alone. We are always available to help support you in any way, and we can provide you with the resources you need to feel your best.
In thinking about wellness as a circle, it makes sense to consider all of the aspects of health- physical, emotional, and spiritual. Health is far more than just one or two things. It is a combination of all the things you do to improve yourself, and there are lots of things you may not be aware of that are an important part of your overall health. Take, for example, sleep. Sleep is something many people take for granted, but in truth, over 30% of the population suffers from some type of sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, and even more people have poor sleep habits and routines.
Since most of us spend about a third of our lives sleeping, it is important to have and maintain healthy sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to the habits we have and the environment in which we sleep. Poor sleep hygiene impacts your mood, energy, and ability to concentrate. It can compromise your immune system, interfere with memory, and eventually lead to weight gain and high blood pressure.
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to create and maintain healthy sleep habits. Here are NINE of our favorites:
- Go to bed at the same time each night, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular bedtime maximizes your sleep-awake pattern, so your brain knows what to expect each day. Your brain actually releases a natural sleep aid, melatonin, about half an hour before it thinks you are going to bed. If you keep an irregular sleep schedule, your brain won’t know when to kick in with the melatonin, which can keep you from falling asleep when you finally do go to bed.
- Try to avoid napping on a regular basis, especially late afternoon. While it may help you feel refreshed for the evening, it will prevent you from sticking to your normal bedtime, and may keep you from falling asleep when you want to. If you do need to take a nap, limit it to 30-45 minutes at most.
- It makes sense that you should avoid stress right before you go to bed, but there are other things to avoid as well. Keep away from caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for at least a few hours before bedtime. All of these are stimulants, and will keep you up. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it disrupts your sleep pattern a few hours after you fall asleep and can leave you awake and staring at the ceiling when you’d rather be sleeping.
- Avoid large meals right before bed. If you feel hungry, try a light snack instead. Consider snacking on foods with tryptophan, which may help you fall asleep more quickly. Think bananas, turkey, cherries, oat bran, and nuts.
- Do your most strenuous exercise early in the day, and save relaxing exercise such as yoga and other stretching for late afternoon or evening. The early vigorous exercise will keep you going throughout the day, while the gentler exercise will help you relax in the evening.
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary, not an office. It’s hard to fall asleep if you are staring at piles of paperwork you need to address. Consider keeping the television out of your bedroom as well, because watching a favorite show may keep you up longer than you anticipated.
- Do not read e-mails before bed. These may get your mind going and not allow for a sound sleep.
- Keep all mobile phones, computers, iPads, iPods, etc. out of your room as to not keep you up. If you need to have them in your room, than shut them off so the stimulation does not keep you from falling asleep.
- Your sleeping environment is also important. Keep your bedroom at your ideal sleeping temperature, and block out as much light as you can. The white noise of a fan or soft music may help you fall asleep. Treat yourself to some comfy sheets and blankets, so when you crawl into bed at the end of the day it will feel like a night at the spa.
Life gets busy, and it is easy to get caught up in responsibilities or fun activities and
end up staying up too late. While an occasional late night isn’t going to ruin your sleep hygiene, making a habit of staying up too late will. Remember that sleeping well is just as important as eating well and taking care of your body in other ways. Good sleep allows your body to heal, rest, and process the events and feelings of your day. You deserve to feel the best you can, so make sure to establish and maintain the healthy sleep habits your body needs.
For more information on learning how to sleep and creating sleep rituals, join our sleep program and we will walk you through a 5-week sleep program. The sleep program will provide you a guide on ways to evaluate and change your sleep habits. Click HERE to see our Sleep Training to Get a Better Nights Sleep.
Next time we will look at the difference between having optimal health and being sick, and we will offer suggestions on how to achieve maximum health for yourself as you continue on your own road toward wellness.