It’s 2am and you’re wide awake, wondering whether to get up and read for a bit or lay in bed zombie-like until you drift back to sleep an hour later. If this sounds all too familiar, you may be one of the estimated 50-70 million US adults that have trouble sleeping. The CDC now says getting sufficient sleep is a “vital sign” of good health. Insufficient sleep not only affects one’s ability to drive or work safely, it is also associated with various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. (1)
To keep you in the sleep zone enough time to feel rested and rejuvenated, follow these seven simple steps for sleeping well. Read to the end for THE BIG SECRET to sleeping well.
SEVEN SIMPLE STEPS FOR SLEEPING WELL
ONE: Sleep in total darkness to optimize melatonin secretion. If you wake in the night, do not turn the lights on. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. It helps controls your sleep and wake cycles. Light affects how much melatonin your body produces.
TWO: Wake up with the sun. Exposure to natural light in the early morning can help you sleep better at night.
THREE: Eat whole plant-based foods. People who sleep less are more likely to eat fats or refined carbs and consume fewer vegetables. (2) Eating whole plant-based foods reduces a whole slew of health troubles that can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
FOUR: Exercise moderately daily, but not too close to bedtime. People sleep significantly better if they get regular exercise. (3)
FIVE: Avoid sleep depriving substances: Alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, and caffeine. Even 2 cups of coffee a day inhibits stage 4 sleep – when neurogenesis occurs – even if coffee is drunk in the morning.
SIX: Go to bed at an established early bedtime. Yes, you really do get more deep restorative non-REM sleep before midnight than after.
SEVEN: Don’t watch TV, use the computer or other screen, or pay bills at least an hour before going to bed. Not only might the light interfere with your ability to go to sleep and sleep soundly, the stress may reduce your restful sleep as well. (4)
The BIG Secret
So what’s the BIG secret to sleeping well? Here it is. Implement the plan. That’s it. Implement the plan!
Don’t just read about, agree with, and philosophize on the best practices to sleeping well. You may be the most educated person on sleeping well and still not be getting a good night’s sleep. Why? Because you haven’t implemented the plan.
Download the checklist below and place it where you can see it before you go to bed. Read it daily. Check off the boxes you have implemented and don’t stop until…
(A) You are sleeping well on a consistent basis.
(B) You have checked every box and are implementing the plan daily.
If you still aren’t sleeping well, then you may want to see your doctor. If you are sleeping well, pat yourself on the back for implementing the plan. Well done!
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sleep and Sleep Disorders
3 National Sleep Foundation : Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep
4 Anxiety and Depression Association of American: Stress and Anxiety Interfere With Sleep.
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