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A good night’s sleep

You know the benefits of a good night’s sleep. It can improve your mood and your mental alertness. Help your body repair and heal. And can even boost your physical appearance.

The circadian rhythm is your biological process that wants you to be awake from sunrise to sunset and sleep soundly throughout the night until the sun rises again the next morning.

The unfortunate thing for most people is that because of hectic lifestyles, lack of physical activity, poor diet and increasing amounts of stress, we rarely follow this natural pattern. It’s common to go to bed way passed sunset, sleep restlessly, and then wake a few times before an alarm clock shocks you into the new day, which is usually after sunrise.

Personally, I believe that sleep is one of the most important ingredients of a well nourished life.

During sleep is when your body revitalizes, re-energizes and restores. It’s in the state of REM (rapid eye movement) that your body heals itself. But if you aren’t able to reach the state of REM, chances are you won’t receive the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

A few factors that can affect the quality of your sleep:

Physical conditions

Noise, light, temperature, how comfy your bed is — all impact the quality of your sleep.

Diet

Eating late at night, going to bed hungry, drinking caffeinated beverages, eating a poor diet high in sugary, processed foods can all disrupt your sleep.

Exercise

Most people who exercise experience better sleep. But make sure you don’t do too much right before bed, the increased energy and make it difficult to wind down.

Stress

When you have stress in your life, your cortisol levels rise. When cortisol levels are high your body is prevented from going into REM sleep.

Medical challenges

Feeling physically unwell, dealing with pain, or taking certain medications can all impact your ability to sleep well.

Here are a few tips to help get a good night’s sleep:

• Unplug. Any electronics in your bedroom such as TVs, computers, phone chargers and lights can cause stimulation, so keep things unplugged.

• Be in complete darkness. Black out curtains, a sleep mask, whatever it takes to block out all light sources.

• Don’t eat before bed. Studies show if you wake up before 1pm, it’s likely from poor blood sugar management. Aim to eat a well balanced dinner and avoid snacking at night.

• Find peace and calm. Before bed find some peaceful calming ways to unwind. Read an enjoyable book, take a hot bath, listen to soothing music, stretch, meditate, and gratitude journalling are great ways to calm and relax before bed.

• Aim for eight hours. If you sleep five-and-a-half hours now, just do what you can to get to bed fifteen minutes earlier until you can do that consistently and then increase it to another fifteen minutes earlier. When you go from five to seven or eight each night, you’ll feel so much better.

If you are having trouble with a good night’s sleep you might want to start a sleep journal to track and explore what is disturbing your sleep patterns and then try a few of my tips. Sleep well!

*This post was originally published in the Herald Community on April 22, 2014

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