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March 2, 2017 | Health Advice

National Sleep Awareness Month

7 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

March is National Sleep Awareness Month, a perfect time to reflect on how much sleep you’re getting. Sleep is crucial for your health in many ways because it affects brain function, energy levels during the day, hormonal balance, and the ability for the body to repair itself. Are you sleep-deprived, or are you in tune with your circadian rhythm?

Understanding Circadian Rhythm

The body has its own internal clock, the circadian rhythm. It controls a part of the hypothalamus, sending signals to that part of the brain and triggering another signaling pathway to our body to produce melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland. The cycle of nighttime and daytime works with the circadian rhythm, regulating sleepiness and wakefulness. Your internal clock cues you in when you’re tired, which is the drowsy feeling you get, or the alertness when you are awake. When you’re sleep-deprived, these dips in energy are more noticeable throughout the day, but they aren’t as apparent if you get enough rest.

It’s important to get enough sleep to perform your best and maintain good brain health, emotional well-being, and overall physical health. Without sustaining proper sleep, this disrupts the circadian rhythm and leads to health issues in the long-term. Avoid the adverse effects of sleep deprivation, and if you don’t already follow good sleep hygiene, below are seven tips to help achieve a better night’s rest:

  1. Eat tart cherries Cherries are a good source of melatonin, and since melatonin can travel from the stomach to the brain, cherries have proven to help insomniacs sleep. Try having some as dessert after dinner or as a light snack an hour before bed.
  2. Eat kiwifruits Kiwifruit consumption promotes sleep for insomniacs like cherries do. In a study analyzing people with sleep problems, kiwis promoted better sleep. Participants who ate two kiwis a day an hour before bed not only slept better, but they also slept longer.
  3. Exercise Physical activity is health-promoting and is good for sleep too. But the types of workouts you do and at what time of the day do matter. Strength training at any time is good for better sleep. Cardio workouts in the morning time promote deeper sleep. Avoid vigorous exercise at nighttime because it is stimulating and raises your body temperature and heart rate.
  4. Practice meditation and stretching – Including just a few minutes of relaxation before hitting the pillow provides your mind and body peace. Meditation and stretching prepare you into sleep mode because the act is calming and reduces stress.
  5. Rest your eyes from blue light – Thirty minutes before bed, give your eyes rest from artificial lights like the TV screen, your phone, and lights around the house. Dim the lights in your house to let melatonin take charge and prepare you for sleep.
  6. Don’t eat right before bed – Avoid eating heavy meals right before bed, but if you must eat something, go for complex carbs and something simple like a slice of whole wheat bread. Carbohydrates are known to make you sleepy because they are rich in tryptophan.
  7. Relax with lavender – Spas like to use lavender oil because it is relaxing, but it also promotes sleep. Try a mask with this purple flower right before bed, or apply its oil on your pillow to help soothe and calm you to sleep.

If you’re wondering what the optimal sleep duration is, it is different for each age group. Check out this chart to see what group you fall under. And make sure your sleep hygiene is excellent.

Keeping your circadian rhythm consistent will support healthy brain function, have your hormones performing smoothly, and allows your body the proper rest it needs to heal and repair itself.