Things to do to Promote Better Sleep

by Yasmin Nolasco

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I hear people say. Ironically, lack of sleep will actually put you in an early grave.  We all know it’s important to sleep but why? Researchers continue to study the specific chemical reactions in our brains associated with the benefits and lack of sleep. Some recent sleep research has found that sleep deprivation is truly a national epidemic with 32% of participants reporting that they sleep less than 7 hours each night, according to the Sleep Foundation.

In addition, the American Sleep Association performed a study on rats that underscores the importance of adequate sleep. The rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. Sleep-deprived rats also develop abnormally low body temperatures and sores on their tail and paws. These low body temperatures and sores point to impaired immune function.  Studies have confirmed that sleep deprivation impacts the immune system in detrimental ways.

Scientists continue to study the benefits and necessities of sleep. One thing we do know is that sleep affects immunity, hormonal balance, the nervous system, cognitive function, gut health, mood, energy, cell regeneration and healing, and bone growth. Yet, the trends indicate that most people choose work and family over adequate sleep and therefore it’s not prioritized. So how much sleep is enough? According to the American Sleep Association, adults between 18 and 64 need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Adults over 65 usually need 7 to 8 hours. Quality sleep comes in 5 stages, the most important one being REM which starts ~90 minutes deep into sleep. This is the stage when we dream, our breathing becomes shallow, heart rate increases and blood pressure rises. But what if sleep doesn’t come easily due to insomnia or another sleep disorder such as sleep apnea? 50-70 million US adults report having a sleep disorder, that’s 1 in 3 people. There are various sleep disorders It’s important to ask your doctor about it if you’re experiencing symptoms.

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Meanwhile, there are some things you can control to promote better sleep. Create a relaxing sleep routine every night until you get into a habit.

  1. Maintain regular sleep by going to bed at the same time every night.
  2. Take a hot shower, dim lights, or try playing soft calming music. Calm App.
  3. Have a quiet, comfortable bedroom and mattress.
  4. Avoid TV, electronics, and phone 30 minutes before your bedtime. Research shows that blue light from the screen can actually adversely affect your circadian rhythm.
  5. Avoid coffee or other caffeinated beverages before bedtime. Also, Cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications may cause fragmented sleep.
  6. Get fresh air. Crack a window to make sure you have plenty of fresh air. You can also use an air purifier for improved air quality.
  7. Exercise in the daytime and not before bedtime. Avoid intense cardio right before sleeping.
  8. Avoid staying awake in bed for more than 10 minutes. If you are worried and have a restless mind then sit on a chair until you regain sleepiness.

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