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5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

holistic health

Sleep is a restorative process not only for the brain but for the whole body. It is one thing that many people take for granted with insufficient or disturbed sleep being extremely common. Current sleep recommendations for healthy individuals is 7-9 hours per night. Furthermore, research states that on average one needs a minimum of 7 hours and 17 minutes of sleep per night to function optimally. However, thirty percent of employed adults report obtaining 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night. After several nights of losing 1-2 hours of sleep per night, your body begins to function as if you haven’t slept at all. Sleep deprivation and disrupting your body’s natural circadian rhythm with artificial light after sunset and before sunrise has been related to conditions like weight gain, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

With its wide-ranging health benefits, minimal cost and accessibility, sleep is one way you can start to improve your health today! Getting enough quality sleep can:

1. Boost Your Athletic Performance and Help You Recover from Exercise

Not only can exercise improve your sleep but sleep can improve your exercise. Athletes require greater recovery from sleep due to the demands placed on their bodies. Scientists suggest that athletes require 9-10 hours of sleep compared to the standard 7-9 hour recommendation. Sleep deprivation results in a reduction in alertness and impaired muscle fibre coordination. Additionally, several studies have shown an improvement in motor skills following a night of adequate sleep.

Recovery is promoted during sleep. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, neutralizes oxidative radicals which promote inflammation. Sleep is involved in repairing your heart and blood vessels. Sleep assists with energy conservations and nervous system recuperation from the previous training day. Furthermore, sleep stimulates memory and learning potential for the subsequent training day.

2. Aid in Weight Loss

Sleep is an important modulator of neuroendocrine function. Meaning that sleep affects hormone levels in our body. Lack of sleep increases our stress hormone, cortisol which has been directly linked to abdominal fat. Additionally, sleep deprivation increases ghrelin production, the hormone promoting hunger, and decreases leptin, the hormone contributing to satiety perception. This means when you lose sleep your body is telling you to eat more calories for energy! The increase in calorie intake may lead to an increase in weight. Therefore, by getting adequate sleep every night you are better equipped to eat healthy portions and healthy meals to aid in weight loss.

3. Protect Your Mental Health

Research has shown that sleep deficiency may alter activity in some parts of the brain. Inadequate sleep affects how we handle day to day stressors. Sleep-deprived brains are more susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and stress-related mental disorders.

4. Improve Your Quality of Life.

Sleep is key to glucose metabolism, so it literally affects how our bodies process sugar. Research has shown that sleep deprivation results in impaired glucose tolerance, meaning that your ability to regulate blood glucose levels is impaired. Blood glucose levels are higher while sleep-deprived despite similar insulin secretion when fully rested. With impaired glucose tolerance you are at greater risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Sleep deprivation increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The amount of sleep one gets can alter blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse. Studies have found that those sleeping less than 6 hours per night are 20-32% more likely to develop hypertension.

Impaired sleep has been related to lower immunity, making it more difficult for your body to recover from infection. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of getting sick more often. Sleep really is the best medicine!

5 Tips to Improve Your Sleep

1. Establish a bedtime and stick with it.

Calculate your bedtime by counting backward from the time you need to wake up. i.e. you need to be up by 6 am. Your bedtime is at 10:30 pm.

2. Put the phone down.

Turn off your screens an hour before bed. Alternatively, you can wear the sexy amber-tinted glasses that block blue light from technology which inhibits melatonin production.

3. Relax.

With a hot bath, book or meditation. Calm has great guided meditations that can help you get to sleep faster.

4. Journal before bed.

Getting your thoughts down on paper before you lay down your head can help them from racing through your mind.

5. Supplement!

Supplements can help you achieve a more restful sleep so you can optimize your performance and general well-being. I also drink Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night Tea on the regular because it helps me wind down.

What to do next...

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Aya, N.T., et al. A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2003; 163(2): 205-209.

Beccuti, G. & Pannain, S. Sleep and obesity. Curr. Opin. Clin. Nutr. Metab. Care. 2001; 14(4): 402-412.

Covassin, N. & Singh, P. Sleep duration and cardiovascular disease risk: epidemiologic and experimental evidence. Sleep Med. Clin. 2016. 11(1): 81-89.

Fullagar, H.H.K. et al. Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 2015; 45: 161-186.

Irwin M.R. Why sleep is important for health: a psychoneuroimmunology perspective. Annual Review of Psychology. 2015; 66:143-172.

Knutson, K.L. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Sleep Med. Clin. 2007; 2(2): 187-197.

Marshall, G.J.G. et al. The importance of sleep for athletic performance. Strength Cond. J. 2016. 38(1): 61-67.

Motivala S.J. Sleep and inflammation: psychoneuroimmunology in the context of cardiovascular disease. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2011; 42(2):141-152.

Mullington, J.M., et al. Cardiovascular, Inflammatory and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. 2009; 51(4): 294–302.

Nagai, M. et al. Sleep duration as risk a factor for cardiovascular disease- a review of the recent literature. Curr. Cardiology Reviews. 2010; 6: 54-61.

Tobaldini E., Pecis M., & Montano N. Effects of acute and chronic sleep deprivation on cardiovascular regulation. Archives Italiennes de Biologie. 2014; 52(2-3):103-110.

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