Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lights Out! Tips for Better Sleep

Of all the 95210 tenets, sleep is the one that gets the most reaction. Nine hours of sleep? Really? It seems almost laughable that anyone would be able to get that much rest. But, while the 9 hours of sleep recommendation is technically aimed at children (with the recommendation for adults being 7 hours), the more sleep we as adults can get, the better we perform.

Sleep not only gives us energy, it also helps regulate serotonin, which affects our mood and ability to focus during the day. Sleep is also a great fat burner. When we stay up too long, our body slows down processes like metabolism in order to conserve energy. A slower metabolism means...you guessed it...fewer calories burned and more calories stored. So, you could consider getting more sleep to be part of your workout goals for the day!

But, turning off the light and pulling up the covers is easier said than done. But it is possible to gradually put some new habits into practice that will inch you towards getting more rest overall. It takes deliberate action, but it can happen! 

These tips and more for how to get more sleep were included in this month's Consumer Reports, along with a review of different mattresses and advice for choosing the one that is best for you.

1. Keep a consistent schedule. Sticking to the same bedtime (and waking time) within an hour or so each day, yes even on the weekends, helps shift your internal body clock to one that is more predictable and less taxing on your body.

2. Watch alcohol consumption. The benefits of moderate and safe alcohol consumption are best absorbed well before bedtime, because alcohol metabolizes as a stimulant. In addition, alcohol could make conditions such as sleep apnea and snoring to be worsened. Studies have shown that while one glass of wine has health benefits, that second glass can impair sleep. Be responsible!

3. Don't sleep with a pet. Our cuddly friends may make for warm feet, but the nocturnal habits of animals can interfere with our own ability to get truly restorative sleep. Provide your pets with their own comfortable place to sleep, not on your pillow.

4. Journal. Sometimes, the stress of a busy day weighs on us far into the evening, keeping us awake or preventing us from falling asleep. Sometimes, writing those thoughts in a journal entry or simply a to-do list for the next day can help us free our mind from them and get closure for the day.

5. Reduce your screen time. Computer screens, televisions, and smart phones are great for downtime (within that two-hour limit of course), but they can trick our brains into think it is daytime. Relax by reading a paper-and-ink book, a magazine, or listening to calming music instead.

Sleep is becoming more recognized as a powerful ally in health. While some wear their lack of sleep as a badge of honor, it is actually harmful to our bodies and lives to go without adequate rest. Put some of these ideas into practice tonight and see if you can't get to bed a little earlier!

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