The search for vibrant health and wellness has become a priority for many people today. They are willing to go to great lengths to pursue that goal. People engage in a whole host of activities, programs and lifestyle choices, and invest huge amounts of time and money to achieve it. Some are even willing to engage in potentially harmful practices or to ingest possibly dangerous substances. And yet, they ignore one of the main pillars of wellness - quality sleep.
Getting quality sleep on a daily basis has been linked to innumerable health benefits. It is needed for mental health and optimal emotional balance. Sleep alone can reduce incidences of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and many other serious health concerns. Every major body function requires restful sleep to allow the machine that is the body to heal, repair and perform at its best.
If your pursuit of better health and increased wellness is not getting you where you want to be, or if a chronic illness has inspired you to be willing to make real-life changes, addressing your sleep issues may be the missing piece of the puzzle. Here are five ways to get better sleep and get the many benefits that go along with it.
Begin an Exercise Regimen
You probably already know the benefits of daily exercise for your physical health because of its documented effects on the heart, lungs and on muscle strength. Establishing an exercise routine is one of the best-known ways to improve your overall health. What you may not know is that regular exercise during the day has been shown to have a significant positive effect on how well you sleep at night. Some sleep specialists say that exercise can affect sleep as well as a sleep medication.
Most experts recommend aerobic exercise as the best option for helping with sleep issues, but bodyweight exercises and even high-intensity workouts can serve your purpose as well. Swimming is considered to be one of the best overall workouts around, providing muscle conditioning and aerobic exercise in one activity. Really, any exercise that you enjoy enough to do repeatedly will fit the bill.
Whereas going to the gym can be a good option, the expense of a gym membership and the inconvenience of needing to leave the home or office to get in your daily workout can lead to failed goals. It may serve you better to choose a workout that you can do from home. There is no shortage of excellent exercise DVDs for any type of workout. streaming services or subscription plans can bring full programs into your living room. If you love swimming enough to take it on as a daily activity, you might even want to check out inground swimming pool costs.
Control Your Light Exposure
Your body has its own internal clock that will tell you when you need to sleep and when it's time to wake. Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle that often begins early in the morning and goes late into the night in combination with electric light that extends daylight far past its normal cycle can confuse that clock leaving your body unable to regulate itself. In order to reset your body's clock and correct your circadian rhythms, you will need to be deliberate about when and what type of light you are exposed to.
In daytime hours, and especially during the morning, you need to be exposed to bright light. Natural sunlight is preferable, but bulbs that mimic sunlight or even sun lamps will work. Simple measures can make a big difference. Throw open your curtains and blinds first thing when you get up and turn on bright lights in the rooms you are in. Consider taking your morning coffee or breakfast outside on your porch, deck or terrace. Bathing yourself in light during waking hours sends a clear message to your brain that it's time to wake up. Controlling your wake cycle will set you up to control your sleep cycle.
In the evening hours, the continual presence of artificial light confuses the brain and body into believing that it is still daytime, which means that they continue to produce and utilize all the hormones and chemical substances to keep themselves awake. You need to counteract that message. At least an hour before bedtime, it is important that you dim the lights in your home to prepare yourself for sleep.
An important change that may be difficult to implement, is that you need to get yourself away from electronic screens at this time as well. The screens of your computer, your phone and your TV all emit a special kind of light called blue light. This frequency of light is particularly disruptive to sleep patterns. If you turn off all the lights in the house but still sit in a dark room staring at your phone screen, you won't get the results you need.
If you absolutely have to look at a screen within one or two hours of bedtime, you should buy a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses. You can spend a lot of money on certain brands of these glasses, but the truth is simple yellow-tinted safety glasses will do the job. There are also apps available for your phone or screen that will limit the amount of blue light these devices put out.
Develop a Sleep Schedule and Routine
Sleeping on a schedule and having a bedtime routine that sets you up for sleep success is almost as important as how much you sleep. This will require some effort on your part and a fair amount of lifestyle change.
Most adults need seven or eight hours of sleep a night to be well-rested the next day. Research shows that to align with your body's natural rhythms, you will want to set your bedtime sometime between 8 pm and midnight. Once you have determined the best bedtime for your schedule, you need to stick to that timeframe, even on the weekends. Consistency is the key.
You should also set up a sleep routine. This will include some of the tips you've already read about like dimming the lights in your environment and limiting your exposure to blue light. You can put on calming music, read a book, do art projects or other mindful activities. Perhaps you want to include a nightly cup of chamomile tea in your routine. Many find that adopting a habit of simple meditation, calming practices such as Yoga Nidra or peaceful visualizations can be helpful. This can be as individual as you are, but the key is to keep things calm, peaceful and stress-free.
Making quality sleep a priority in your life is essential to your overall well being. A restful night's sleep should not be a luxury but a necessity. This will take effort and commitment on your part but will pay off in profoundly positive ways.
Fostering a solid sleep schedule takes real dedication, yet it is profoundly enriching overall. By tracking your habits and modifying them appropriately, you are doing yourself a huge favor. Good luck, and sweet dreams!
Download Alaska Sleep Clinic's free sleep journal to keep track of your sleep issues for you and your physician to go over.