Hit the Hay
By: Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND —
The number of people who still consider sleep to be a luxury surprises me. I see even health conscious people sacrifice sleep to get more done or have more fun. But the reasons to get a good night’s sleep are as important – and pretty much the same – as the reasons to eat wholesome food and get some exercise. Too little sleep is linked to myriad health problems.
- Overweight and obesity
- Prediabetes and diabetes
- Poor diabetes control
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Mood problems
- Depressed immune function
Sleep, exercise and a healthful diet work together to boost health and mood. Improving one of the three often leads to improvements in the others. After all, how much motivation do you have to prepare an extra vegetable or hit the gym when what you really want is crawl back into bed? The positive cycle continues when better diet and regular exercise bring you to sounder, more restful slumber.
Here are my top 10 tips to better sleep.
- Create a routine. Getting to bed and waking up approximately the same time each day – even on weekends – is an important strategy recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. To ease yourself into bed and into sleep, establish a soothing bedtime ritual such as reading, meditating, sipping on hot decaffeinated tea or listening to relaxing music.
- Shut out the light. Light stimulates a nerve in the brain that affects our feelings of wakefulness and drowsiness. Avoid light from TV, tablets and computers shortly before bed, and keep your room dark for sleeping. If you need a light in the middle of the night, shine a low illumination nightlight in your bathroom or hallway.
- Dial down the temperature. A cool room can help you get a more sound sleep. Many experts recommend 65°F.
- Silence the noise. If noises disturb you, block them with earplugs, a fan or a white noise machine.
- Don’t fret. Instead of lying in bed watching the clock and worrying about losing z’s, relax with deep breathing exercises or meditation. Still awake? Try getting out of bed to read or listen to music.
- Eat and drink wisely. Avoid large meals and caffeine before bed, and be cautious with alcohol. Alcoholic beverages may push you into sleep faster, but they will also wake you up sooner and more often. Clean up your diet too. A recent study found that less healthy diets with little fiber and too much saturated fats and sugars were associated with restless slumber. Limit the sweet treats and enjoy calorie-free sweeteners like sucralose instead of sugar.
- Move more. Regular exercise means more sleep and sounder slumber.
- Enjoy some sun. Sunlight helps your body’s natural circadian rhythms. Try to get outside every day.
- Check your diabetes control. Nightmares may signal low blood sugar, and frequent urination might mean that your blood sugar is high. If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar may identify the reason you’re not sleeping soundly.
- Talk with your doc. If you lose sleep more than now and then, seek help from your healthcare provider.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and two upcoming books, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association. Jill is a paid contributor to Sucralose.org. Follow Jill on Twitter @NutritionJill and find more at www.JillWeisenberger.com.
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