Research increasingly shows that sleep is a critical component of good health. And a variety of studies link lack of shuteye to obesity, heart disease and Type II diabetes.
So today, I thought I’d share with you five sure-fire tips to help you improve your sleep and make 2017 your most rested year yet:
Tip No. 1: Reward yourself
Establish a routine at night where you relax and reward yourself before climbing into bed. After all, you have put in a good day and deserve to take some time away from work and worries. The reward will also prepare your mind and body for restful sleep.
Your reward should be something enjoyable and relaxing — not looking at a computer screen or hand-held device. These devices emit bluish lights that can suppress natural melatonin production and disrupt the sleep cycle.
I recommend reading a book, listening to music, or talking to a partner about the better things in life, for an hour or so. If you like the water, soak in a hot tub or take a warm shower. It will help release stress, relax your muscles, and naturally raise serotonin levels.
Whatever you choose, remember, you want to relax and improve your mood before going right to bed.
Tip No. 2: Spend less time in bed
The bed is for sleep. So when you use the bedroom for work, watching TV, texting, or activities not associated with sleep, it sends the wrongs signals to the mind and body.
Ultimately, you want to spend less time in bed doing activities other than sleeping. You should try to think of your bed and bedroom as a sanctuary for sleeping. This good habit will also make it less likely you will fall asleep in inappropriate locations, like in the grand opera house, or at the theatre.
Tip No. 3: First things first in the morning
Most people know they should try to stick to the same routine for turning in and getting up the next morning. But few people know the benefits of morning light. Just 15 minutes of natural light in the morning helps set your circadian alarm clock to be in synch with waking and sleeping times.
So — when you wake, go immediately outside, or into the sun indoors, to get some exposure to natural light. Take your coffee in the sun or go for an early walk with the dog.
Also, if you expose some skin to the sun, it will also help boost your vitamin D levels from April to October in most parts of the country. But remember, at this time of year, the sun isn’t strong enough to activate vitamin D. So make sure to take a supplement with 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily.
Tip No. 4: Get moving
Once you’re up, try to get your blood pumping at some point during the day. It doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. But it shouldn’t be too late in the day, or it could leave you feeling more wired than tired, running counter to the relaxing evening routines I suggested at the outset.
Just get your exercise during the course of the normal day, walking whenever you can, getting in a swim, and doing that physical work around the house and yard.
Tip No. 5: Be careful with your sleep supplements
Melatonin is a supplement that people tend to overuse, and it makes them groggy the next day. The only time it may be useful is when you need help rapidly resetting your circadian cycle when changing time zones. But overdoing it will not help you feel rested and ready in the morning.
I do recommend kava, however. It is an herbal remedy from the South Pacific that assists with relaxation and sleep at doses of 200 to 400 mg per day (taken at night). Kava also has amazing anti-cancer activities, as I wrote in the June 2015 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. (You can download and view this issue from the Archives for free by logging into the Subscriber area of www.drmicozzi.com with your username and password. And if you’re not already a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.)
Valerian is another herbal option to try to improve sleep. In one study, participants who took 400 mg of valerian reported statistically significant improvement in time required to fall asleep, sleep quality, and number of nighttime awakenings. Furthermore, the participants who identified themselves as “poor sleepers” experienced the most pronounced improvements.
Getting enough B vitamins and magnesium will also help keep your brain functioning normally, which includes proper sleep regulation.
A cup of warm milk or any other hot, caffeine-free beverage can also help you relax and get to sleep. One or two alcoholic drinks earlier in the evening will also help with relaxation, as well as brain and heart health. But more than that amount of alcohol can disrupt sleep due to its metabolic effects. Wait an hour or two after drinking before you go to sleep.
Last, I would recommend learning how to meditate. Meditation slows the heart rate and induces relaxation. So meditating before bed can induce sleep. You can learn about how to begin the art of meditation in my book with Don McCown, New World Mindfulness.
- “Aqueous extract of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis L.) improves sleep quality in man,” Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 1982; 17: 65-71