Good Habits for Restful Sleep

"I love my bed..."

by Michael Corthell

Sleep. Something that comes to us as naturally as breathing—for some. Sleep is a very important part of our lives. It is one of the 'big three' of good health, the other two being eating right and exercising.

''There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.''

If you are always lacking a good night's sleep you could be in danger. Not just because just you are groggy and foggy the next day. Chronic, long-term lack of good rest dramatically increases your chances of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, and even weight gain. Try some of these suggestions, and you just may wake up feeling incredibly well-rested.

Sleep is foundational so sleep on a good bed. If you love you bed, you're all set. But if you don't and have to buy a new mattress set, make sure you spend the proper time evaluating it in the store. Some stores even let you try out a new mattress. If you don't like it you can bring it back.

Caffeine, stop in time. Experiment a bit to find out what your coffee(or other caffeinated drink) cut off time is. For many it is noon time unless you go to bed at 6:00 p.m. Adjust your intake accordingly.

Choose superfoods and don't 'supersize'. Some foods are better at promoting sleep than others. Again you will have to experiment but your base should be non-heavy foods. Like cut out the greasy protein stuff. And remember to always eat healthy whole foods, avoid processed convenience foods.

Alcohol avoidance helps sleep. Sounds counter-intuitive because we get sleepy after a glass (or two) of wine. You may get to sleep faster but alcohol disturbs the brain's sleep cycle. The quality of sleep goes down as the quantity of the drink goes up.

Take that hot bath earlier. Raising your body temp just before bedtime has been shown to actually inhibit falling asleep. You body seeks balance and it takes work to get it there.

Exercise is good but bad just before bed. Instead, stretch your body slowly and gently just before bed or in bed. Yoga can be good as well.

Set the sleep scene. It's always good for most people to sleep in a quiet, darkened room. But it is also important to spend the hour or so before sleep dimming the light. Make it a habit to keep the light lower in the evening. This gets the brain in gear for sleeping.

Consider 'white' or natural sound. Some people run a fan all night in the bed room, some an ambient soft noise machine.(surf, waterfall, summer night sounds etc.) Others like absolute quiet. If you don't really know, experiment to find out what works best for you.

Daily stress release ritual. Again find your 'thing'. Some if not all will pray lying in bed. Others meditate. Whatever it is that alleviates stress for you, do it. Do not skip it. Everyone builds up stress during the day, it is normal, but your job is to manage it and getting a good night's sleep is foundational to stress management and one of the big three of good over-all health management.

Pain in the_________. If you have chronic pain it needs focused management either to cure what is causing the pain, or experimenting to find best treatment to manage and minimize the pain. But always remember that drugs should be the last resort for pain management because like alcohol, which is a drug, they will damage natural sleep cycles. Easy way outs, like many short-cuts, can end up being the hard ways.

Easy sleep seems like it should be easy, but like most every good thing, it takes a good amount of work to make it look easy.

''The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep...''
—Robert Frost

Why do we sleep?
by Russell Foster

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages -- and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.