I seem to read a new study about the health risks of poor sleep every week. It’s so important I like to ask my clients this: What if you embraced how to get a better sleep schedule as often as you start new diets or adopt a new exercise plan?
How Poor Sleep Affects Your Health
Poor sleep makes it harder for you to reach other health goals like losing weight, losing belly fat, reducing stress, clearing brain fog, or becoming more fit.
Here’s a shocking quote–
Insufficient sleep may be one of the most common, and most preventable, obesity risk factors.
Healthy adults subjected to sleep restriction ate more food, gained more weight, and added more fat in the abdomen.
In another study, subjects who followed advice to lengthen their sleep ate less sugar and reported less craving for sugar and carbohydrates compared to those who stuck to previous sleep routines. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/107/1/43/4794751
Do you or a family member have diabetes? A study published in the May 2019 issue of Diabetes Care https://doi.org/10.2337/dc19-0298 reported that for adults with Type 2 diabetes, Hgb A1c (indicating blood sugar levels over time) was significantly higher in those who reported sleeping less than five or more than eight hours per night.
Sleep disruption has also been linked to greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease and high blood pressure.
I usually sleep well, for which I give much credit to my parents. Dad could drink black coffee at nine p.m. and fall asleep at eleven. Mom slept through family road trips of any length—five hours to grandma’s or four days cross country. Even so, there are times when I toss and turn. Here’s what helps me not sleep like a baby. (Who wants to wake up crying every three hours?)
How to Get Better Sleep Schedule
Shut down screens at least thirty minutes before bedtime.
The light from TVs, computers, and smart phones may stimulate wakefulness, yet many people still have TVs in bedrooms, do work email at night, and text until the lights go off. Stop it. You need sleep. Move the TV from the bedroom.
L et go of anger.
The Bible says “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent” (Psalms 4:4). How many times do you hash over a situation or carry on an imaginary conversation at night because of unresolved anger or frustration? The psalmist says be at peace, with a silent heart. That may require you to engage in courageous and vulnerable conversations, set and enforce boundaries, or decide to forgive and release your resentment. Your health and well being is worth it! Do these things as early in the day as possible. I’ve found it’s better to tackle tough conversations in the morning, when I’m rested, and have time to work off tension or stress before bed time..
E liminate stimulants.
Unlike my dad, I am caffeine sensitive. If I eat dark chocolate or drink a caffeinated soft drink, tea, or coffee in the evening I feel awake and wired until well past midnight. Don’t use a glass of wine, beer, or other liquor to relax after a rough day. Although it may feel calming at first, alcohol intake causes light, fitful sleep. If you struggle to sleep, try ten days without caffeine or alcohol before resorting to a prescription sleep medication. While sleeping pills can be effective, long term use is associated with side effects like memory problems, poor learning, and sleep walking or other potentially dangerous activities without awareness. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/15308-sleeping-pills
E xercise every day.
This reduces stress and generates whole body calmness. How great it is to honor your body with the movement it needs for relaxed health.
P repare for sleep.
You might have trouble sleeping because you live so focused on what you DO, not what you ARE. Going to sleep requires letting go, as Wendell Berry said in his poem The Wild Geese: “abandon, as in love or sleep.” https://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=2144
Dogs can relax almost anytime, anywhere.
A Bedtime Routine
Here are things that help me transition from a doing to a being mindset:
Gratitude—I like to name and focus on the good things in my life.
Deep breathing The yoga practice of ujjayi breath, sometimes called Darth Vader breath, helps me release unproductive thoughts.
READ! Jeanette Winterson writes, “Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.” In a recent New Yorker article Ceridwen Dovey commented that reading puts the brain in a trance-like state, bringing relaxation, and therefore regular readers sleep better.
Foods That Help To Sleep
Foods you eat also impact how well you sleep. For details, check out my video “Foods That Help To Sleep” https://deborahrankinrd.com/how-to-sleep-better-with-foods-that-help-you-sleep/
Start by adding three of the foods reviewed to your diet on a regular basis. My favorites?
- Tart cherry juice
- Dairy products
Chronic Stress and Burnout
Sleeplessness can aggravate feelings of burnout, while chronic stress and burnout can increase your sleep problems. That’s a vicious circle.
If you have trouble going to sleep, or often can’t sleep through the night, gauge your stress level and ask yourself if the way you live is working for you. My quiz “Signs Burnout May Be Building” can help you assess yourself–https://deborahrankinrd.com/burnout-quiz/
How Will You Get Better Sleep Schedule?
Take steps now to improve your bedtime routine and eat foods that help sleeping. Wouldn’t it be great to have less cravings for sugar and find it easier to lose weight and belly fat?
Leave a comment below. What’s your best practice for how to get a better sleep schedule?
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