By Sean Keats, CSCS
(WINDSOR, ON) – What you can do to get the sleep your body needs. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning feeling refreshed after a good night’s rest. Since the quality of your day often depends on the quality of your sleep, getting good sleep regular is essential to performing well at work, home, and play.
You probably already know that lack of sleep for a night or two makes you feel groggy or grumpy. But did you know that frequent sleep loss contributes to car accidents and injuries on the job; impairs your judgment and concentration; increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes; magnifies depression; hampers your sex drive; ages your skin; and contributes to weight gain?
With so much depending on your ability to sleep, it’s important that you do what you can to increase your chances of deep, quality sleep. Try these tips to see what strategies work for you.
1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Your body is made with a natural sleep-wake cycle, also called your circadian rhythm. Ever notice how you start to feel sleepy around the same time each night or naturally wake up around the same time each morning? This is your circadian rhythm. Keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s rest.
This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This doesn’t just include workdays. It includes the weekend as well. If you aren’t able to stick with your schedule for a night or two, make up missed sleep with an early afternoon nap rather than sleeping in late.
2. Regulate Your Melatonin
Melatonin is the hormone produced naturally by your body that works to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. It functions based on light exposure. When it’s dark in the evenings, your body should secrete melatonin to make you drowsy. When you’re exposed to sunlight, your body knows to slow down production.
Unfortunately, your lifestyle may not lend itself well to the production of melatonin. If you’re indoors, away from natural sunlight all day, or if you’re exposed to bright lights from the TV or computer late in the evening, your melatonin schedule may get off kilter. To regulate your melatonin, expose yourself to as much daylight as possible during the day. Then, limit light at night by avoiding the TV, computer, and bright lights.
3. Watch What You Put in Your Body
What you do during the day and what you eat in the hours before bed affect how well you sleep at night. Avoid a big meal, as well as rich, fatty, acidic, or spicy foods within two hours of bed. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but will wake you up later and disrupt your sleep. Also, it is best to avoid caffeine completely after lunch. This stimulating drug can stay in your system for up to 12 hours. And when it comes to drinks, limit all beverages in the evening or you may be awoken in the night to use the restroom.
If you need a bedtime snack, try eating a little turkey or a glass of warm milk with crackers. Poultry and dairy are two types of food that contain tryptophan, a chemical that promotes sleep.
Quit smoking if you want better sleep. Nicotine is another stimulant that will keep you awake. While trying to sleep, smokers may suffer withdrawal symptoms in the night that make quality sleep almost impossible.
At some point during the day, get physical activity. Exercise has been proven to help you get the deep, restorative sleep your body and mind need for optimal functioning. If you find that exercise late in the day stimulates your body, try an earlier time.
5. When to See a Doctor
If you’ve tried every sleep trick you can think of and still can’t seem to get a good night’s rest, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a sleep doctor. Make an appointment if you persistently feel fatigued, snore loudly and catch your breath during sleep, have headaches in the morning, fall asleep at random times, can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, or have crawling feelings in your arms or legs at night.
Sean Keats is a personal fitness trainer in Windsor who helps busy people transform their bodies with 30-minute express workouts right in your own home. For more information, visit his website at www.seankeats.ca or call him at (519) 817-1461.