Top 9 Habits of Healthy (and Happy) Sleepers

A good night's sleep is highly underrated; just ask anyone who has trouble sleeping. A solid seven to nine hours of sleep does much to regenerate every aspect of mind-body health. It increases longevity, decreases stress and anxiety, elevates mood, helps with weight management, cognitive function, mood, and slows down the aging process.

Here are some tips for getting the sleep you need and deserve:

1. Exercise Daily – and try to get it in before dinnertime. You don't want to get your heart rate up too high close to bedtime since that tends to be stimulating and you may have trouble falling asleep. Reserve evening movement for calming exercises like restorative yoga or mild stretching.

2. Eat a Light Dinner – Large meals at night increase your risk of heartburn and discomfort when you lay down. It may also increase the likelihood that you'll wake up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Eat your biggest meals earlier in the day. Start off with a hearty breakfast, go for moderation at lunch and keep it light at dinner so your body and brain can focus on relaxing rather than digesting.

3. Avoid watching television or social media'ing up until it's time to crawl under the covers. Not only can the light from these screens interfere with the development of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, the stories can images may cause you to dwell upon matters that keep you from relaxing into that restful state.

4. Taper your fluid intake a few hours before retiring since as you're likely well aware, a full bladder does not make for a restful night's sleep. Empty your bladder just before you head to bed and keep a small glass of water by the bedside. We don't want you to be thirsty, but overhydrating prior to sleep time is never a great idea.

5. Encourage a healthy sleep chemistry by snacking on cherries for dessert over chocolate (caffeine and theobromine may disrupt sleep). Cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, one of the body's natural chemicals that helps to regulate sleep. Oatmeal, warm milk, bananas –also make nice evening snacks to get you in the mood for slumber.

6. Schedule sleep and wake time like you would an important meeting. Consistency is key when it comes to successful sleep. Whether you're a night owl, an early bird, or a shift worker, try and get to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning. You may need to use an alarm or go to bed a bit earlier than usual to get the pattern to really work for you, but it's totally worth it. Before you know it your natural biorhythms will kick in and you'll be a sleeping phenom. Continue the same sleep and wake times on weekends for best results.

7. Create a serene sleep environment. As much as possible, keep clutter to a minimum in the bedroom. Keep out any potential bright light, whether that may come from streetlights, car lights, house lights, or a full moon. Black out drapes or curtains can really help block bright light. If your bedroom tends not to be the most quiet or your partner is a heavy snorer, consider ear buds to help cancel some of the noise or consider investing in a white noise machine that may help block out or cancel outside noises.

8. Consider natural sleep supporters like chamomile, passionflower, and valerian all make nice tea that you may sip about 45 minutes before retiring to bed. GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is a supplement that may be used as a sleep aid. L-theanine is an amino acid derivative found in green tea that helps the body produce GABA and is available in supplement form. Melatonin, as mentioned above is found in cherries or may be used in supplement form to help reduce jet lag and to support natural sleep cycles. Magnesium helps support a healthy nervous system and has been shown to help improve quality of sleep and reduce the incidence of waking during your night's sleep.

9. Standing forward bend or seated forward bend may help get the brain into a place of restfulness and sleep ready. They may help calm the nervous system and quiet a busy mind.

10. Affirm and write down what you are grateful for. Take 5 minutes before bed to reflect on at least 5 things that you are thankful for. If you've had a rough day, try and look past the challenges and acknowledge the things that are going right for you and write them down. This will bring peace and calm to your brain and body and help keep you from dwelling on any negative that may be interfering with sleep success.


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