Sleep Your Way to a Healthier You
By Cassie Weness, RD, LD
July 19, 2012
Are you someone who:
- Hits the snooze button multiple times each morning before reluctantly rolling out of bed?
- Longs for a nap many afternoons because you feel so lethargic?
- Has trouble regulating your blood sugar level even though you are controlling food portions?
- When your boss approaches you with a project that requires critical thinking and problem solving, feel you need a strong cup of coffee to rev-up your brain enough to perform?
- Feels just downright tired?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you likely need more sleep.
Lack of sleep causes more problems than just being grumpy
Our society seems to reward people for working more and sleeping less. You may be one of many with long workdays, social commitments, late-night news and an unending list of e-mails that keep you burning the candle at both ends. The pharmaceutical industry encourages this dysfunctional sleep pattern by offering drugs to help you fall asleep and drugs to help you wake up. Now is the time for the American public to “wake up” and start making an earnest effort to get more sleep.
Research shows a lack of sleep may increase your risk of:
- Depression and anxiety
- Breast cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood sugar
- Memory loss
A study conducted at the University of Chicago Medical Center showed that a lack of sleep “not only hastens the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and memory loss” (The Lancet Oct 99).
On the other hand, when you get a good night’s rest your body has sufficient time to repair itself and to rejuvenate. Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep a night for optimal health. Children and teenagers require even more.
Practical ways to get more Zs
For some, time is the only thing keeping them from getting enough sleep. If this is the case for you, figure out which daily activity to do away with or to condense. But if you are one of the millions who chronically experiences trouble falling asleep, waking in the night or both, don’t despair—there are things you can do, such as:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and rising at the same time.
- Before bed, do something to relax your muscles and your mind. Try stretching, deep breathing exercises, taking a warm bath, or whatever helps you unwind.
- Avoid sugar and foods high in carbohydrates—like popcorn, chips, and crackers—in the evening hours.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet.
- Eat a balanced bedtime snack, such as berries with cream on top or apple slices with almond butter.
- Prepare your body and mind for “sleep mode” by turning off the TV and computer and darkening your bedroom with heavy drapes before you hit the sack.
Supplements may help
If the healthy habits listed above don’t solve your insomnia, the next step is to try 400 to 600 mg of Magnesium Glycinate at bedtime. This mineral relaxes muscles and can help calm anxiety, both of which help with sleep. If that does not work, then it is time to contact a nutritionist about other supplements that may help you such as progesterone cream, 5-HTP and melatonin. These are ways to naturally improve sleep, but should not be prescribed without the expertise of a health professional.
Don’t let another night go by without addressing your body’s need for quality rest. It could make a drastic difference in your ability to lose and maintain weight, feel good, improve your memory and prevent an early death.