Ahh, sleep. How many of us out there wish we could get more of it? We know we should be aiming for 8 hours per night, but an estimated 33% of the population falls short of that goal. Hectic schedules, chronic stress, anxiety, excessive screen time, and alcohol consumption can all contribute to regular amounts of sleep deprivation.
Poor sleep leads to poor health outcomes. According to the CDC, individuals who achieve less than 7 hours of consistent sleep per night – meaning you fall asleep easily and stay asleep – are at a higher risk for weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and cancer.
So what can you do to improve your sleep? Here are 8 quick and easy steps to show you how.
- Strive for a consistent bedtime each night. The more consistent you can be, the better. Your bedtime should allow you to achieve 7-9 hours of sleep per night and ultimately should occur during our prime sleep hours (10pm-7am).
- Unplug all electronic devices 2 hours prior to bedtime. The artificial blue light from these devices will lower the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is needed to help you fall asleep. Devices are also a trigger for stress and emotions. Give yourself plenty of downtime in order to ready your body for sleep.
- Practice stress relaxation techniques. A warm bath, reading, journaling, listening to soft relaxing music, prayer, meditation, yoga poses, whatever you like. Implement one of these strategies each night as you ready yourself for sleep.
- Keep your room dark and cool. Avoid having any devices or electronics near your bed that can emit light. Use room darkening shades if necessary.
- If you are a light sleeper, consider using deep breathing or meditation techniques to achieve deep sleep. Another thing that can help is a sound machine that will generate white noise.
- When possible, expose yourself to sunshine or daytime light upon waking either by going outside or opening a window. This will support healthy melatonin levels throughout the day.
- Consume dietary sources of Melatonin. These include eggs, fish, pistachios, mushrooms, oats, black rice, organic cow’s milk (if tolerated), green beans, cherries. You can also consider a melatonin supplement.
- Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods such as bananas, almonds, spinach, cashews, black beans, peanut butter, and avocado, or take a magnesium supplement if needed. Magnesium can help your body relax and achieve restful sleep throughout the night.
Set a goal to implement these strategies in order to enhance your sleep. Along with proper diet and exercise, quality sleep can help you to significantly improve your health. For more information, contact me here.
Ferreira, S. (2018). A Dietitian’s Guide to Assessing and Treating Fatigue.