Quick tips to Optimize your Sleep.

I’ve had an inkling for years that sleep is important.  I even remember in my second year at University when I was on the Coed Cheerleading team and I loved it (obviously)!  But our practices would start at 10 pm and finish at midnight.  Needless to say, I missed a lot of 8:30 am classes that semester and it wasn’t my best academic performance.  It’s interesting, but I can have my nutrition running perfectly, my exercise booming & if my sleep is disrupted even for one or two nights, then my physical and mental performance suffers, also if something is going around, I will catch it if I’m sleep deprived, but I seem invincible if I’m well rested (in addition to good nutrition and exercise).  Most people I’ve counseled can relate!  Sleep is absolutely that important!

Sleep lack has been linked to metabolic derangement including obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 Diabetes.  Studies have also shown that inflammatory markers (i.e. cortisol and CRP) are elevated in people who don’t get enough sleep.  Circadian rhythms regulate energy levels in your cells.  Additionally, the proteins involved in your circadian rhythm and metabolism are intrinsically linked and dependent on one another.  More recent evidence shows that people trying to burn fat/lose weight are stymied by poor sleep amount and quality.

Therefore, it’s critical to get adequate sleep regularly.  Shift work has been associated with metabolic derangement, but obviously it’s essential to some of our livelihoods and to society at this point, so if you are working shifts, which will eliminate a consistently timed routine, be sure to tweak the plan and find what tips help you achieve the deepest and most restful sleep possible within your lifestyle.  This can help to eliminate the risk that shift work places on our health.

Adequate sleep is defined for adults as 7-9 uninterrupted hours of restful sleep, however, each person’s requirements will differ a bit (i.e. between 6 – 10 hours for most). Figure out what amount you function and are healthiest on and then make it a must to achieve that nightly!

Here are some quick tips to try to get the best quality sleep you can that I’ve learned over the years and from others who’ve written & researched the topic!  Try them tonight and see for yourself.

1) Sleep in complete darkness – blackout shades, drapes, cover clock radios avoid lights overnight.
2) Temperature in your bedroom at or below 70°F (21.1°C) – slightly cool is better.
3) Eliminate caffeine after 4 or 5 pm – this one is individual, but usually this is a good guideline for most.
4) Keep a journal beside your bed – if thoughts are keeping you up, try jotting them down with a quick plan of action or first step in the journal – this gives your mind permission to let go of the challenge and relax more readily.
5) Remove the TV – use your bedroom for sleeping primarily – eating or watching TV can confuse your brain that this area is not just for sleeping.  Yes, sex is fine as well.
6) Have a consistent ritual and start this at a fixed time every night – it will trigger your brain that sleep is imminent.
7) Try to avoid TV or video games or surfing the internet at least 1/2 hour – 1 hour before sleep – to totally relax your mind.
8) Keep electronic devices at least 6 feet away & ideally off overnight – Electromagnetic fields can disrupt circadian rhythms, this helps to mitigate this.
9) Try to avoid waking abruptly to loud alarms, etc… Ideally, a sunrise/sunset lamp or radio can help.  This will gradually increase the light in the room.  Interestingly, many of these also work to simulate sunset by gradually dimming their light over a preset time interval and I’ll be honest, the I don’t normally make it past 10 minutes of dimming and I’m ready to pass out!
10) Avoid exercising too close to bed time – other than meditation and relaxing, fluid Yoga movements which can enhance your calmness, intense exercise can actually stimulate your brain (like caffeine) and make it difficult for you to get to sleep.

If you’re still having trouble a few other things you can try.

1) Discuss Melatonin with your doctor or Pharmacist.
2) Discuss Magnesium Citrate supplement before bed.
3) Meditation and light Yoga in the evening.

I hope these tips help you achieve the nocturnal bliss that we all deserve!

However, if a good night sleep is still eluding you, then be sure to discuss your situation and symptoms with your doctor or health professional as sometimes there could be underlying challenges that need to be addressed.

Remember that adequate sleep is critical to your goals of health and fat management!

Till next time!

Dietitian Dan T

Citations:

http://hprc-online.org/mind-tactics/sleep-optimization
http://robbwolf.com/2010/12/31/easy-ways-to-be-a-sleep-viking-in-2011/ 
http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/02/secrets-to-a-good-night-sleep.aspx
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130311151112.htm

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