Woman sleeping peacefully in bed with white sheets.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

By Destiny Howard, MS, RDN, LD, CNSC

Make Sleep a Priority

You may not realize how important sleep is for your health and wellness. We live in a busy world where the focus is rarely ever on sleep. However, poor sleep can put your health at risk, even when you are doing your best to eat healthy and exercise.

Sleep also impacts appetite and metabolism. When you don’t get enough sleep, levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin decrease and levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin increase, which makes you hungrier the next day and more likely to overeat. Poor sleep has even been linked to strong cravings for specific foods including sweets and baked goods.  

Sleep experts recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. The first step is to figure out if you’re getting enough by using a sleep log or timer. If you find that you’re not, consider trying some of these tips:

Routine

  • Be consistent with your bedtime and wake time throughout the week. This will help train your brain and body to recognize when it’s time to sleep.
  • Exercise in the morning, afternoon, or early evening (at least 3 hours before bed). Physical activity can help improve your sleep.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that you find relaxing and familiar. Try spending time with meditation or prayer, relaxing music, or reading before going to sleep.

Environment

  • Keep lights off and the bedroom dark. Too much light can disturb sleep.
  • Make your bedroom a quiet and peaceful retreat just for sleeping. This trains your brain to associate your bedroom with rest, not entertainment or work.
  • Turn off technology (e.g. TV, cell phone, tablet) an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from electronic devices has been shown to interfere with sleep quality.
  • Keep your bedroom temperature slightly cool. Cooler body temperatures are related with sleep onset, so it is important to allow the body time to cool off from a workout.

Intake

  • Limit caffeine during the day. The more caffeine you consume, the harder it will be to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. A good rule of thumb is not to have any caffeine from about 2 p.m. on, or at least seven hours before bed so it doesn’t negatively affect your sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime. The effects of alcohol may shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, but it can actually disrupt the quality of your sleep.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and exists in an array of plant-based foods including tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, walnuts, barley, strawberries, and olive oil. Increasing your intake of these foods may help improve sleep. Melatonin has become increasingly popular as a supplement, however, I always recommend food first. One reason is that the food sources listed here also contain several compounds that help to activate melatonin in the body.

Get the Help You Need

It’s important to take sleep problems seriously. An untreated sleep disorder can reduce daytime productivity, increase the risk of accidents, and even lead to an early death. If you follow these tips and still have trouble sleeping, it may be time to visit Oklahoma Sleep Associates. Oklahoma Sleep Associates’ board-certified physicians are able to diagnose and treat a multitude of sleep-related disorders including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome. Click here to learn more.