When you think about ways to get healthier, it often involves increasing your activity levels in some way. But, as it turns out, one of the best things you can do for your health is get the right amount of sleep.
Sleep deprivation increases your risk of cardiovascular disease or a heart attack, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. A lack of proper sleep also has been linked to a lower libido and an increase in depression and anxiety. So, if you find yourself having a hard time remembering names, appointments or where you put your car keys, poor sleep may be the culprit.
To be sure you get the shut-eye you need, form some habits that lead to a deeper and healthier slumber.
Have a Routine
If you have kids, you see how much better they feel and function when they are on a dependable sleep schedule. So, just because you are an adult, does not mean you have outgrown the need for a sleep routine. The simple act of adhering to a regular bedtime makes a huge difference in the quality of your sleep because your body knows that it’s time to rest. This means that you should go to bed and wake up at these times every day — even on your days off.
Create a Relaxing Bedroom
If you have difficulties falling and staying asleep, take an honest assessment of your bedroom to determine what could be disrupting your sleep. To start, keep your room on the cool side (around 65 degrees). Then, if the sun streams through your windows in the morning, install window coverings to turn your bedroom into a dark sanctuary. You can either hang long drapes to block out just a little light or go for blackout shades to prevent any light from coming through.
Avoid Unhealthy Late Night Snacks
Eating before bed is a widely debated topic. Some say that it makes you gain weight and affects your quality of sleep, but other studies show that it doesn’t. One point most people agree on, however, is that if you do need a late-night snack, make it a healthy one. For example, eat or drink foods that contain melatonin, tryptophan or magnesium, such as milk, tart cherry juice, walnuts, whole grain toast with almond butter, ginger tea or soup. Avoid heavy foods or ones with a high-fat or sugar content, such as pizza, pasta, ice cream or cookies. And, you also want to stay away from alcohol and soda or anything with a lot of caffeine.
Exercise Way Before Bedtime
Although getting regular exercise can improve your sleep quality, many people need to finish their workouts at least three hours before bedtime. Many people find that working out right before bed increases their adrenaline levels and brain activity, which makes it hard for them to wind down. If this sounds like you, be sure to exercise earlier in the day. You also may want to take a cold shower after you exercise to lower your body temperature back to its normal level. Quick and Dirty Tips also recommends doing a cool-down exercise or doing deep-breathing or meditation after your workout. They explain that this lowers your cortisol and adrenaline levels, which will help you fall asleep.