Get Your Groove Back!

Eating, moving, and sleeping! Which is more important to overall health? Which of these three aspects of our daily lives will help us become the people we want to be?

Unfortunately, no easy to quantify order has been established as all three factors affect and synergize with the others. We are in equal control of these three components and, while many outside perturbations can make any one of the three more difficult, they afford us a 24-hour opportunity (circadian cycle) to maximize our health and happiness. This article will focus mainly on the sleep portion of our “Circadiome” and explain how to improve habits that bestow health.

The first strategy to improve sleep benefit is alcohol moderation. Avoiding over consumption of alcoholic drinks is one of the most effective strategies to improve sleep and improve immune function. While some alcohol can help induce sleep, any more than two drinks can actually cause sleep disruption and dysregulation of sleep cycles. Alcohol contributes to frequent wakenings and night sweats. Over consumption of alcohol also drastically reduces the regulatory effect the brain has on gene expression and hormonal function. We literally make less genetic messengers (which regulate our biological clocks) when we overindulge in alcohol.

The second aspect is the foods we eat during the day and right before bedtime. For the vast majority of us, eating three or four hours before bedtime can greatly contribute to a more restful sleep. There are many individuals; however, who may benefit from a healthy snack right before bed. In these cases, avoid fried foods and foods with high fat content. These foods digest slower and give off continuous stomach acid causing sleep disturbing heartburn. Also limit overly spicy and processed foods. Much better choices would be lower fat versions of cheese or yogurt and nuts, seeds, bananas, and eggs. These foods seem to provide vital minerals and B vitamins that can contribute to the sleep cycle.

Try and go to bed at the same time every night. This can be very hard on weekends and holidays but is very important to try and match bedtime consistently tire yourself out. Exercise, physical activity, and being up and about are very important to restful sleep. Some individuals can exercise near bedtime and others have to plan exercise for earlier in the day. Experiment to find the perfect regimen!

Watch the amount of caffeine that is being consumed. Caffeine is great for early day motivation and energy but can hamper bedtime activities.

Make the bedroom a refuge. Try and keep from turning your bedroom into a second dining or living room by banning snacks and drinks form the bedroom. Also, make the room dark and relaxing, too much stimulation (sorry smart devices) can delay bedtime and rob you of precious rest.

Try sleep aids (go natural). There are a variety of sleep aids that can be useful to enhance the techniques mentioned above and many can be used safely with most ages. Some of the most widely used herbs and supplements are valerian, lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, and melatonin. Follow the instructions on the bottle and avoid overuse. As with all supplements discontinue use if symptoms of nausea, headache, or stomach upset arise and always make sure your doctor is aware of the supplements you take for possible interactions.

There is a reason we sleep a third of our lives. It is responsible for a third of our success. Be rested and be happy!

Disclaimer: Clark's Nutrition is neither associated with nor profits from the above-linked pure-science project.


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