A Guide to a Better Night’s Sleep

I think we all could agree that a little more sleep in our lives would be a dream come true. Sleep is grossly underrated. In the world of health, we have an affinity to talk about the importance of exercise, work environment, and maintaining a balanced diet at length. However, the importance of a good night’s sleep for a healthy life is often overlooked, despite the fact that we spend (or should be spending) seven or more hours every day sleeping.

This is strange, considering that anything else in our lives which consumed seven hours a day would be heavily discussed! Research has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to more than a few yawns and a dragged-out day. Furthermore, it has been linked to a wide range of diseases, including: cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety, cognitive impairment, and increased susceptibility to infection. Sleep literally affects all aspects of our health.

So, without further ado, let’s change the conversation and add to our healthy living arsenal. Here’s a four-step guide to a better night’s sleep:

Manage Screen Light at Crucial Times

In an era of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and televisions in every room, it is important to monitor how soon before you sleep you are staring at the screen of your smart phone or tablet. Screen light tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime. The problem with that is your body continues to produce stimulatory hormones in preparation for the stresses of the day. If your body is pre-occupied with making stimulatory hormones, it isn’t busy generating the necessary sleep hormones your body needs to prepare you for a good night’s rest.

Try decreasing your screen light brightness once the sun goes down and when there is no more natural sun light outside.

Also try shutting down all devices a minimum of 15 minutes prior to sleep. These hacks will give your brain enough time to shift the focus to relaxation and slow down brain activity. Resist the urge to pick up your phone during sleep to check it by either leaving it in another room or placing it face down so you don’t notice any notification lights throughout the night. If you tend to fall asleep with the television on, be sure to set a sleep timer. Although you are sleeping, the background light is still registered by your brain, confusing for your body, and resulting in inadequate sleep.

A Power Nap Could Make All the Difference

This question always comes up! Is a power nap beneficial, or does it provide no tangible benefit?

Well, the infamous ‘power nap’ is an effective tool to stave off sleep deprivation. A 20-30 minute nap can increase alertness and improve decision making and productivity. Anywhere from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is a prime window to escape and get in that well-deserved nap.

When it Comes to Caffeine, Timing is Everything

Caffeine is a stimulant and can make the brain more alert, hindering a person’s ability to fall sleep. For coffee drinkers, the timing of caffeine consumption is key. Getting your caffeine fix at a minimum of six hours before sleep is critically important, because the detrimental effects of caffeine on quality sleep cannot be ignored. As a general rule of thumb, 4 p.m. should be the cut off for your last sip of coffee.

The 10-2 Rule

No, we’re not talking about driving for beginners here, we’re talking about your liver. Because it’s responsible for so many functions in the body, it is therefore imperative that it gets all the support it needs. Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., your liver is in repair, and the highest levels of melatonin (a sleep hormone) are available. With that said, the more sleep you get between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., the healthier and happier your liver will be.

There you have it. Your four-step guide to better night’s sleep. Follow these simple steps and you will wake up more refreshed than you did this morning. Unless it’s a Monday morning…nobody likes Mondays!

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