We all want it. We all need it. But sleep can be hard to get--especially these days when high stress runs amok and there are more To Dos at the end of our day than time. No wonder the sleep-aid industry is so colossal. Despite the recession, prescriptions for major sleeping-pill brands rose 7% last year, and by next year, the pharmaceutical industry is predicted to reap at least $5 billion from annual sales of so-called hypnotics to help people sleep. Americans are an increasingly sleepless people; millions have trouble falling asleep, and many millions more have trouble staying asleep, especially women. The National Institute of Health says more than 70 million of us nationwide may be affected by sleep troubles.
Sleep is the foundation and the most crucial component of overall good health. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I have had the privilege of helping people improve their lifestyle and get into shape with exercise, attention to diet, and having fun. In recent years, however, I have watched many clients--women especially--struggle with optimizing their health and wellness despite our efforts in these three areas. I have long believed that sleep plays a vital role in the maintenance of a strong, vibrant body, and realized while I was giving my clients overall wellness, I wasn't addressing the fourth and extremely important dimension of health: sleep.
Sleep studies have proven that people who get less than four hours of sleep a night gain weight. Without proper sleep, the balance of the digestive hormones leptin and ghrelin is disturbed which causes an increase in overall appetite, increased hunger and a craving for calorie dense, high carb foods such as sweets and salty snacks.
This is then compounded by a loss of energy and interest in exercising. The vicious cycle continues since lack of vigorous exercise leads to poor sleep quality. Without deep sleep your appearance will deteriorate in other ways (hello fine lines and dark under eye circles), your productivity level will decrease, and your sex drive will decline. You will be at risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and depression.
Many people turn to sleep medications instead of making behavioral changes. Sleep medications, even when approved and prescribed by a doctor are not meant to be taken more then four out of seven nights a week. Many individuals develop a dependency on pills, whether physical or psychological.
That is the bad news. The good news is...you don't have to lose sleep over it! You CAN improve your "sleep hygiene." Better sleep hygiene leads to better sleep. Better sleep paves the way for weight loss, a more youthful appearance, renewed energy and even a better sex life!
The 10 tips below are ALL NATURAL and require SIMPLE behavioral changes that anyone can do
1. Reduce Caffeine- Caffeine stays in your system for up to 12 hours, so if you like to go to bed at 10pm, have your cup of java before 10am.
2. Do NOT consume alcohol or nicotine before bed- Alcohol will put you to sleep, but wake you up several hours later after the alcohol has metabolized in your system.
3. Always finish vigorous exercise 5 hours before bed. Exercise raises your core body temperature. Its takes up to five hours for the temperature to drop in order to fall asleep.
4. Avoid heavy meals before bedtime. Heavy meals may cause heartburn and other digestive issues interfering with a good night's sleep.
5. Keep fluids to a minimum after 8PM. This prevents waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
6. Avoid stress inducing activity prior to sleep- e.g. emails, voicemails, paying the bills or stress inducing television programs such as the news, etc.
7. Establish a bedtime routine- separate yourself from the activities of the day to allow your mind and body to prepare for sleep. A secure bedtime routine like you may have had as a child is conducive to sleep.
8. Write it down- Put worries, fears, and tomorrow's "To Do" list on paper and out of your head. Keep a notebook by your bed in case you wake up in the middle of the night with things on your mind.
9. Create a restful environment in your bedroom- keep your room cool, dark, quiet and clutter-free (no laptops, blackberries, cell phones, etc). If noise is an issue, use a "white" noise maker.
10. Utilize Relaxation techniques- light stretching, soothing music, aromatherapy oil, deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation. You can do any one or better yet a combination of these activities to release the stress of the day, relax your mind and prepare your body for sleep. Sleep experts highly recommend these stress relieving techniques because they work and because anyone can do them.
In addition to the above must do tips, other sleep aiding activities include: taking a warm bath before bed, investing in a good mattress and pillow, cozy pajamas, and luxurious sheets.
Give it a try! You owe it to yourself; you have nothing to lose, but pounds and wrinkles!
For information on my all inclusive Sleep Kit, Good Night Sleep Right ™ please visit www.christinefeewellness.com.