Maximizing sleep for optimal health

maximizing sleep for optimal health
April 7, 2016

Getting quality sleep is an importance part of living a healthy lifestyle. While most of us only notice the physical benefits of feeling rested and being alert, sleep plays a major role in everything from regulating hormones, managing weight, reducing stress levels, and improving heart health. Lack of sleep can interfere with all of these things and really set us back in our health.

Sometimes getting a good night’s rest is just not possible. My heart goes out to new parents, shift workers, and on-call doctors. Interrupted sleep is a reality for most of these people. I’ve been there. I have soooo been there. When the girls were infants I was up most nights every hour or two to change them, nurse one or both, and rock them to sleep. Some nights I never slept at all. Of course, Matt shared in this misery, too.

With the understanding that sometimes you just can’t get a full night’s rest, there are ways to maximize the sleep that you DO get.

Here are some of the things we do in order to make the most out of those ZZZs:

  • Keep the temperature cool. We set our thermostat at 64 – 65 degrees during the night. Any warmer and I will wake up a sweaty mess. This is most likely because the air in the room can interfere with your body’s natural temperature dip in the evening. We also have our overhead ceiling fan on low to circulate the air.
  • White noise is helpful. We have a small fan in our bathroom that we use at night to provide background noise. It’s kept very low so we can still hear the girls on the monitor. (The girls have a noise machine, too!)
  • Supplement with magnesium or apply a magnesium cream at night. I use this kind and I swear by it. I put it on at night and it really helps calm by body and prepare it for sleep. I apply it inside my elbows and behind my knees since the skin is thinnest in those spots and it’s absorbed more easily. Taking a magnesium supplement is another great option.
  • Keep your room dark. This one might sound like a no-brainer, however, even a light from your laptop or cell phone can disturb your sleep pattern. Electronics emit blue light which slows your body’s production of melatonin. Try not to use these right before bed. Similarly, we try to turn the lights in the house down after 7:00 pm to signal that it’s time to wind down. This works really well for the girls, too.
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. No one wants to hear this, but it’s true – all three can interfere with your body’s ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Some people are affected more by these items than others. If you find that you are waking up during the night or have trouble falling asleep then it could be due to alcohol, caffeine, or sugar. I would try to document what you eat in the evenings to see if you can find a correlation.
  • Have carbs at night. Research shows that having carbs in the evening can help you sleep. This is because carbohydrates spike your insulin and make you feel drowsy. I like having banana slices with almond butter or a slice of gluten free toast. The carbs fill me up and the fat satiates me. Just be sure to have your snack a few hours before bed since eating late at night could interfere with sleep, too.

What tips to do you have for falling asleep?


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