By Helen Sanders
Consistently achieving a restful night’s sleep can be a struggle for many individuals for various reasons. While there are some more deeply rooted health issues that can impact the quality of your sleep, there are some reoccurring, overarching, easily-treatable patterns of behaviour that usually prove to be applicable to most individuals. The solution to better sleep for most people is simple. Better sleep just requires some tweaking to daily lifestyle habits.
Moving your body on a daily basis through exercise as well as being mindful of your nutrition is the quickest route to building a strong foundation for deep sleep. How well you eat and how often you move your body both play vital roles in the quality and duration of your sleep. The good news is that through your own daily decisions and choices, you can make a positive impact and take big steps towards excellent sleep. These steps you can take are straight-forward, attainable and sure to help.
As always, if you suspect some something more serious is going on with your health, consult with your Doctor or Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner to gain their insight and expert advice.
Exercise’s Role in Health
Engaging regularly in exercise (3-5 days a week) can help to enhance many aspects of your overall health that are linked closely to sleep. When done with moderation in mind, exercise can help to normalise cortisol levels, balance blood sugar, elevate your metabolic function, promote fat loss, recalibrate your mental state and promote relaxation at night. When you find your favourite mode of exercise and frequency that works for your schedule and energy levels, strive to be consistent and dedicated while also staying in tune to your body and the message it’s sending you (i.e. soreness, fatigue and so on).
Just like anything else, exercise can be done to the detriment of your own health and wellness. Overtraining can cause cortisol levels to stay elevated when they should be taking a dip (night time), which ultimately work against your efforts to sleep more soundly. Just aim to listen to your body and rest on days you feel fatigued and sore. This will help you prevent overtraining and get the most out of your sleep time. Remember that the key is peaceful sleep, not sleep that’s needed as a result of utter desperation and severe exhaustion.
Expenditure Promotes Relaxation
Following any high intensity activity like exercise, the body is sent into recovery mode. Your body’s ultimate goal is to maintain homeostasis and keep your energy levels sustained. Thus, your body seeks to conserve energy right after such a heavy caloric expenditure in order to help your body to continue keeping up with its expected bodily functions like hormone allocation, digestion, detoxification, elimination, respiration and cardiovascular function.
This is why you will experience a wiped-out feeling after a hard workout. It’s your body desperately trying to regain homeostasis. Feeling this happen within you will just resemble a tired feeling or sensation of exhaustion. It’s not quite sleep-like, but it’s certainly reminiscent of a zen-like, relaxed state. Some people might choose to work out in the evening so that it’s a convenient segue into their pre-sleep night time routine. In many way, this helps you sync up with your body’s natural rhythm and tendencies.
Other Sleep Hacks
Along with exercise, there are a few different habits to integrate for better sleep. Be mindful about screen time at night. In other words, try to cut back on the amount of time you are focused on your phone or computer screen for at least the 30 minutes leading up to bed time. Staring at an electronic screen (which emits blue light) signals your body to stay alert and awake, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve at night.
This may require you to adjust your nightly routine so that you’re not immersed in your favorite TV show right before bed. However, if done over time, it will positively impact your melatonin production and sleep quality. If you can’t kick this habit but still care about your sleep, look into purchasing some blue light blocking eye glasses, which will help decrease your exposure.
Some other bed-side essentials to consider are calming essential oils in a diffuser (like lavender, camomile or frankincense), a sleep mask and black out blinds to eliminate light from impeding sleep. If really struggle, you can also consult your doctor about taking magnesium supplements.
Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com.