Sleep strategies to upgrade your health

Sleep is a key factor in health, as I am sure you are aware. Many of us are so busy, we think we can go without an hour of sleep here or there, but the truth, ensuring optimal sleep is one of the best things you can do for your heath. So before you even think of what to do differently when it comes to sleep, you may consider to:

Give yourself permission to rest, and to take care of yourself. Remember the flight attendant’s advice: Get oxygen (sleep) first, before you try to help others– you’ll be much more effective – and healthier.

  1. Lifestyle solutions:
  • Try to keep a regular schedule – it works for kids and adults alike:
    1. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each morning and evening, if at all possible – it will help set up your body clock to prepare both for sleep, and for starting the day (circadian rhythm)
    2. Create a “going to sleep routine” before you go to bed – do something enjoyable/relaxing, journal and get your worries and thoughts out of your mind earlier in the evening (not right before bed) and onto paper; allow yourself some wind-down time; try to stay away from bright screens at least one hour before bed
  • If you feel hungry at bedtime, have a light snack, such as a banana, warm milk with honey – something small, not heavy – although making sure you eat enough at dinner is more optimal
  • Try not to nap, unless you’re really exhausted (meditation/sitting quietly is OK)
  • Bedroom conditions: On the cooler side rather than warm, dark – use a mask if necessary; employ some “white noise” if it’s noisy
  • Keep the bedroom a sacred, quiet place for only two activities: sleep and sex – prepare your mind for rest even as you walk into the room, no TV or working in it
  • Stay away from caffeine and alcohol if possible, or have it earlier in the day, especially caffeine, at least 6 hours before bedtime
  • Get some daily exercise, such as yoga, QiGong, Tai Chi, Pilates, stretch for 5-10 minutes a day, or walk 10 minutes as a start
  • Remember to breathe – deeply for a quick pick-me-up, even for 1 minute.
  • Experiment w/ other stress reduction techniques: Guided meditation/imagery, deep breathing, reading an inspiring book, get a massage, garden, take a bath (Epsom salt and baking soda – great detoxifiers if you’re fighting a cold, and make your skin nice and smooth), and last but not least, create your own “self-care menu” of activities that relax you and choose one each day/evening – even for 5 minutes!

Other ideas:

1. Supplements: Experiment with the intake of magnesium (such as leafy green veggies, nuts, seeds, avocados) to help your body relax, or take an epsom salt bath at night (even a foot bath may help) or even foods high in tryptophan such as turkey.

2. Eating Habits: Increase your intake of whole foods – fruits and vegetables, whole grains if you tolerate grains, nuts, seeds, sufficient water). Eat healthy fats (cold pressed olive oils, real butter in moderation), rather than trans fats from improperly processed oils and enough healthy protein at each meal, to help keep blood sugar and energy stable throughout the day. Speaking of sugar – try to replace some of the processed, white flour, refined sugary foods with fruits and smoothies. Try to have your last main meal at least 3 hours before bed (preferably 4) so your body can focus on regenerating itself instead of digesting food while you are going to sleep.

3. I saved the most important one for last: Ensure pitch darkness in your bedroom at night. Learn more here.

Remember, it’s OK to take care of yourself just as you would your car, house/apartment, garden or any other belongings. As Kobi Yamada said,

“Be good to yourself. If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”

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