In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health. Proper sleep is one of the keys to looking and feeling your best, yet it’s estimated that up to 70% of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep is crucial, as sleep is the time that your body is repairing. It is during sleep that your body’s innate healing capacities kick into full gear. Your immune system gets revitalized, metabolism is balanced and general maintenance and repair of all bodily systems occurs.
Good quality sleep is just as important for your health as the quantity. But many people are unwittingly sabotaging their natural ability to fall asleep, and then they rely on addictive sleeping pills which mask the problem but don’t address the underlying issues. Here are some natural, drug-free tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
It’s called a bedroom for a reason
There are only two things you should do in bed, and they both begin with the letter “S,” as in sleep and sex. Conduct all other activities, i.e. watching TV, working on your laptop and reading, elsewhere. Your bedroom should be a peaceful, distraction-free oasis that’s completely conducive to unwinding, resting and ultimately, sleeping (not to mention the other “S”).
Take a cue from the vampires
In other words, embrace the darkness. Though we may not realize it, even with the lights out, most of our bedrooms glow with the flicker of seemingly innocuous little lights blinking, flashing and distracting our sleep–charging phones, light-up alarm clocks and night lights to name a few. Banish them from the bedroom or cover the lighting mechanisms with a bit of electrical tape.
Chill out, literally
To mimic our body’s own natural rhythm of cooling for sleep, lower your bedroom thermostat. A sleeping temperature of 60 to 65 degrees is best for most people, even in the dead of winter. Lower temperatures encourage the production and release of sleep hormones.
Break up with Starbucks
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant with a typical half-life of 7 hours, meaning that half of it is still coursing through your veins 7 hours after you drink it! So yes, that 3 p.m. latte can disrupt your ability to fall asleep–caffeine blocks sleep neurotransmitters, over-stimulates the adrenal glands and throws off your circadian rhythms. The solution? Start slowly weaning yourself off all caffeinated beverages. That includes soft drinks, tea, even decaf coffee, some herbal teas, chocolate and medications like Anacin and Excedrin.
Hold the cocktails
Though there’s nothing wrong with occasional glass of wine with dinner, in general those with problems sleeping should avoid alcohol, as it can be as disruptive to the body’s sleep rhythms as caffeine. While alcohol has an initial sleep-inducing effect, as the body breaks it down, it can lighten and disrupt sleep by causing frequent and early awakening.
Set the stage
Ease into a night time routine. Turn down the bedroom lights an hour or so before bedtime. Meditate or listen to calming classical music at low volume or try my favorite restorative yoga pose to chill out, Reclining Belt Pose. Take the time to slowly “power-down” your mind and body so you can drift happily into the good sleep you deserve.
GUEST EDITOR: DR. FRANK LIPMAN
Dr. Frank Lipman is one of the country’s top pioneers in the field of integrative medicine. Focused on sustainable health and wellness, he offers patients–who include Donna Karan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal– a customized blend of modern medicine with alternative practices. In 2010 he developed Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman, a line of leading-edge health programs and supplements that recalibrate the body with healthy nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. As a guest editor for Daily Makeover, Dr. Lipman will share his tips on how you can solve common health problems and start feeling more energetic and vibrant. Follow Dr. Lipman on Facebook and Twitter for daily health tips and the latest in health and wellness.