When you get enough sleep, you can ingrain (no pun intended) healthy choices necessary to balance your blood sugar and stop the rollercoaster of mindless eating. If you’ve been on a snack laden diet, you’re going from sugar high to sugar low many times a day. And feeling moody, tired, and not as alert as you’d like to be. Our seven part series on balancing blood sugar includes adding water, more protein, healthy fats, mindful shopping and exercise to our daily regime. But sleep matters, too.
Why Does Sleep Matter?
It’s a fact. Good sleep habits make you healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep is a public health problem.
Studies indicate that people who experience a low quality or quantity of sleep are at an increased risk for lifestyle diseases and health problems such as:
- Diabetes and obesity
- An overall reduced quality of life
- Decreased productivity
For some, it encourages eating at night when you should be resting.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
For the average adult, 7 – 9 hours is considered a sufficient amount to aid the body in its regenerative activities. When sleep is deep and restorative, blood pressure drops, muscles relax, energy is restored and tissue growth and repair occurs. A lot is going on when the mind is at rest. Plus, we’re too busy relaxing to over-eat.
What Keeps Us Awake?
So, you’re getting ready for bed but your brain is wide awake. “I should just keep working, maybe I should clean my desk instead, or unload the dishwasher, or wash that one last load of clothes, or finish writing that paper, or change the oil in my car ….” In that split second when your head hits the pillow and your eyelids become droopy, you snap awake and stare at the ceiling. You pray that tonight the endless chatter in your head will cease. You long for uninterrupted slumber. Know that feeling? We all do.
A Physical Change Occurs
The constant chatter of worry, stress and anxiety that fills your mind at bedtime acts to turn on the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is counterproductive to a lifestyle of rejuvenation and healing because it is released as part of the fight-or-flight response. When your mind is distracted with excessive thoughts, your body is tense and ready to respond in a manner that is unfavorable to sleep. When you relax and slow down, you stop producing so much cortisol and sleep is yours!
How To Calm Down
Like oral hygiene, sleep hygiene requires a commitment to routine. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and large meals close to bedtime have been shown to improve sleep. Unplugging electronics can take the form of no television in the bedroom or simply powering down a kindle, ipad or smartphone in the hour before bedtime. Your task is to do something of great difficulty: RELAX!
Breathe And Reset Your Thoughts
Silence the chatter with this calming routine:
- Connecting to your breath. Breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for six. Merely counting your breaths gives your mind something calming to do.
- Relax your jaw.
- Un-crinkle your forehead.
- Get comfortable.
- Focus on gratitude. Focus on what you have accomplished, not what is left to get done.
Make it a habit to reflect on five things you are grateful for as part of your bedtime routine. When you adopt an attitude of gratitude, you are opening yourself to having more of what you want … like uninterrupted, restorative sleep.