Category Archives: Sleep

6 Steps to a Good Night’s Sleep

6 Steps to a Good Night’s Sleep

With the hectic pace that most of society thrives on, 7-9 hours of sleep a night is not exactly high on most people’s list these days. We have mis-prioritized our schedules so that there’s very little room for adequate restful sleep. We have become really proficient at crowding out sleep in order to “get it all done” in a day. We have become so driven to exceed our goals and driven to compete with others’ success that we have become a sleep-deprived nation.

We take stimulants to energize ourselves for the day and we take relaxants to wind ourselves down at night. But what about the quality of sleep once we lay our heads on our pillows?

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

With the fall season coming upon us, the days will begin to shorten which means it will become darker earlier and our natural circadian rhythm will be begging you to slow down earlier in the day. So take advantage of this rhythm and acknowledge the benefits that 7-9 hours of restful sleep will bring you, which are:

  • Experiencing increased energy for your day ahead
  • Making good lifestyle choices like cooking, exercising and self-care
  • Strengthening your immune system to fight off those colds and flues that come along every fall and winter season
  • Amplifying your alertness, focus and creativity
  • Reducing anxiety, irritability and mental exhaustion
  • Increasing your libido

What’s not to love about a good night’s sleep?

Key Behaviors to a Good Night’s Sleep

If you want to hop off the “hamster wheel of life” and reap the benefits listed above, then you must change your habits.

Below are 6 steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep so you function optimally the next day. If implementing all 6 steps at once is overwhelming for you, then just start with one of them. Choose one step below to commit to for 21 days and then add another step to commit to for the next 21 days and so forth. Within four months, you will be enjoying a lifestyle you haven’t before experienced.

  1. Eat a variety of whole foods during the day to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need to maintain your energy levels throughout the day so your boost of energy comes early in day and you naturally wind down in the evening.  For a list of best and worst foods to eat before bed, click here.
  2. Limit sugar and caffeine which are stimulants to your system. The last thing you need is to buzz with energy late at night. You could try drinking caffeine-free herbal teas after dinner though to induce a calm relaxed state.
  3. Consume largest meal at lunch and lightest meal at dinner. Digestion requires energy. By consuming a large meal at dinner, the digestion process is interfering with your rest cycle.
  4. Stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime. The word breakfast means that you are breaking the fast between your last meal of the prior day and the first meal of the morning. A fast is necessary to give your organs a chance to rest and recover; your body releases hormones that regulate appetite control, stress, growth and metabolism; and your memory cells form new cells that allow learning new information to occur.
  5. Crowd out late night snacking with a relaxing activity like taking a hot bath, sitting in a hot tub, reading, journaling or yoga.  Be sure to turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
  6. Avoid beverages before bedtime to reduce the need to get up during the night and go to the bathroom.

Sweet dreams!

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Best & Worst Foods to Consume Before Bed

Best & Worst Foods to Consume Before Bed

Many of us are always looking for ways to get a good night’s sleep. This won’t be new information for you but it is a good reminder that maintaining adequate amounts of quality sleep is vital to your overall health and well-being. It’s important for your energy restoration, making smart lifestyle choices, strengthening your immune system, fostering focus and attentiveness, reducing anxiety, and increasing your libido (woohoo!). Wouldn’t it be great to wake up every morning feeling refreshed, focused and excited to move through your day?

Conversely, getting inadequate sleep at night (somewhere between 4-6 hours) can have harmful effects on your body too. It is a well-known fact that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, increase risk of chronic disease, increase risk of accidents and injuries, deteriorate your cognitive function and increase anxiety. How many people do you know that take medication to combat sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression when, more than likely, all they need are natural ways to unwind at the end of the day?

One of the most overlooked contributing factors that impacts your quality of sleep – either positively or negatively – is food. Certain foods promote sleep while other foods keep you up at night.

The best advice for a good night’s sleep is to not eat or drink after your last meal of the day which, for most people, is around 6-7 pm. However, if you’re truly hungry, don’t ignore your body’s signals either. It’s hard to fall asleep when you’re hungry or your blood sugar is low. Choosing the right snack before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Also be mindful of the size of your snack. You don’t want to overeat and be so uncomfortable that you can’t sleep or you suffer heartburn.

The general principle is protein, healthy fats and fiber-rich foods are better to have before bed than processed foods (which are made up of sugar, simple carbs and cheap unhealthy fats), spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol.

Best foods to eat before bed:

  • Bananas are rich in magnesium, serotonin and melatonin, all which encourage sleep
  • Raspberries and cherries contain melatonin
  • Nut butters and peanut butter have healthy fats that raise your levels of serotonin
  • Almonds are full of the amino acid tryptophan and magnesium
  • Honey stimulates the release of melatonin and shuts off the orexin (a hypothalamus hormone that keeps you alert)
  • Oatmeal is full of vitamins, minerals and melatonin
  • Turkey is a great source of protein and tryptophan that helps you to feel full AND sleepy
  • Cottage cheese also contains tryptophan
  • Plain Greek yogurt is protein packed (make sure you don’t get any flavored variety as that has added sugar)
  • Caffeine-free herbal tea can help you unwind before bed. Try chamomile, passionflower, peppermint or Valerian

Worst foods to avoid before bed:

  • Alcohol prohibits us from falling into a deep, restorative sleep
  • Coffee, tea and soda are high in caffeine which stimulates the brain for up to 10 hours.
  • Hard cheeses contain high levels of the amino acid tyramine which stimulates the brain and can cause headaches or migraines
  • Spicy foods contain capsaicin which can affect your body’s temperature and make it difficult for you to get solid sleep
  • Fatty foods are hard on the digestive system and can cause heartburn
  • Sugary foods will give you a boost of quick energy and a quick crash which can leave you feeling lousy the next day

So if you must have a snack and it’s close to bedtime, pass up that bag of greasy potato chips or sugary cookies and instead fix a small bowl of warm oatmeal mixed with some Greek yogurt, topped with warm honey, banana and chopped almonds. Your belly will thank you and you will wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, focused and excited to move through your day!

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