Your Guide to Better Sleep
Most doctors recommend eight hours of sleep for a healthy and happy life. For some that may seem like asking too much ... read some of S&H's best articles on sleep, and maybe you'll find that your perfect circadian rhythm isn't as far out of reach as you thought.
Lately, there’s been much commotion about the importance of a healthy morning routine to start your day off on the right foot. But how can you possibly start your day off bright-eyed and bushy-tailed if you don’t get a proper night’s sleep?
Spotlight Article: A Bad Night's Sleep is as Dangerous as a Poor Diet
So you stayed up too late binge-watching “Scandal,” or burning the midnight oil on an important work project—what’s one night of lost sleep, anyway. Actually, scrimping on as little as one measly night’s sleep can have a profound effect on our metabolism, researchers have found.
A new study, presented at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting last week, found that one night of sleep deprivation and six months consuming a high-fat diet both impaired the body’s insulin sensitivity to nearly the same degree. Insulin resistance is important because if the body starts to become resistant, has to pump out more and more insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels stable. That can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Obesity itself is also associated with insulin resistance, and later, diabetes.
The study was conducted in canines. First, the dogs’ levels of insulin sensitivity were measured after one night of sleep deprivation. (How you deprive a dog of sleep, I don’t know. Perhaps a lot of cats were involved?) Next, the dogs were fed a high-fat diet for six months, and their insulin sensitivity was again tested. Surprisingly, one night of sleep deprivation reduced insulin sensitivity by 33 percent, more than the six months’ of a high-fat diet, at 21 percent. Keep reading ...
Is sleep eluding you? We found some unusual options to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Sleep Tip: Eat strategically.
Enjoy your last meal at least two to three hours before bedtime, suggests the National Sleep Foundation. Even eating dinner at the same time each night will help you fall asleep at the same time each night, it suggests. If you must have a snack, pick a light blend of carbs and protein, like peanut butter on crackers.
(More tips here.)
If you're looking for ways to naturally sleep better at night, where better to look than in nature?
Spotlight Article: 5 Reasons You're Not Sleeping
I used to be really good at sleeping. I would crash out as soon as my head hit the pillow and barely move until there was light in the sky. Then I had kids and found out what sleep deprivation is all about. When I could finally sleep through the night again, it was like rediscovering a long lost friendship.
According to a 2007 National Sleep Foundation study, 67 percent of American women frequently experience disturbances to their sleep. That’s a lot of tossing and turning. Shelby Harris, a sleep disorder specialist and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia, suggests addressing these five common sleep disruptors as a first step to getting a good night’s sleep:
- Drinking within three hours of bedtime. This means no alcohol within three hours of bedtime because, although it may help get you to sleep, you get less quality sleep as its effects wear off. You also want to limit any kind of liquid within these three hours because nothing disrupts a good night’s sleep like needing to use the bathroom.
- Keeping your bedroom too warm and bright. Your body naturally cools down as you sink deeper into sleep. If your room is too warm, it counteracts this natural process, disrupting your sleep cycle. Similarly, any light sources, even very dim electronics, will mess with your body’s production of melatonin, which is a crucial hormone that directs your sleep/wake cycle.
- Exercising and bathing right before bed. Harris suggests working out four to six hours before bedtime, which will give your body a chance to warm up, and then, importantly, cool down enough to support your body’s prime temperature for sleep. Similarly, having a warm shower or bath is best done one-and-a-half to two hours before bed, maximizing the chances that, come morning, not only will you be clean, but you’ll also be rested.
Ward off infection and avoid illness by cranking up your body’s defense system all night long.
Sleep Tip: Stick to the wake-up time like glue.
Sleephabits.net has some very helpful techniques on picking a schedule that will work for you. Check those out here. But one of the key takeaways is: Get up at the same time, every day, even on the weekends. It feels Draconian but it will help you get to bed on time, which helps you wake up on time, which... oh, you get the picture. It’s a healthy cycle.
(More tips here.)