This is the fifth blog in a series delving into the 8 Pillars of a Nutritious Life, the support system I incorporate into my nutrition coaching because good nutrition includes more than just what we eat. (photo credit University College London)
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a real nerd about getting enough sleep. Besides stubbornness, I think it’s my superpower. I learned a long time ago in order to feel good and to function, I need to hit the sack around 9pm, lights out by 10pm and wake at 5:30am.
Now bed time varies from person to person but getting enough sleep is essential to everyone’s wellbeing which is why it is a Pillar of a Nutritious Life. “When you are well rested you make better food and lifestyle choices, plus you have more energy for healthy habits like exercising, walking to work, or taking time for your favorite activities,” writes Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN. “When you are not well rested your defenses are down and you are more likely to overeat and make poor food choices.”
So what happens while we sleep that is so important to our health? A lot! The Sleep Foundation has many articles and studies you can delve into. But in a nutshell, sleep is when our brains are actively resting, and our bodies produce lots of hormones including growth hormones and others that fight off infections and boost the immune system. Sleep also affects the hormones that regulate our weight and appetite. Here is a study that shows how sleeping a healthy amount aids weight loss.
Wondering how many hours you should get? 7-8 hours is still the recommendation for adults 26-64 years old. The articles here and here explain that in more detail. But what if you have a hard time falling or staying asleep? Below are some tips to help you get in the mood to snooze, keep on snoozing, and to snooze well!
Have a bedtime ritual Keep it simple. The main thing is that it is doable. Maybe it’s a cup of Calm before going to bed. Magnesium is a great way to relax, helps with restless legs, and a host of other benefits. Or you can try a little bit of gua sha with a calming oil before lights out!
Ready your body, ready your room Get into comfy pjs, have a loving skin care routine, dim the lights in your room, make sure the air in your bedroom is cool, and turn off electronics a half hour before falling asleep.
Have a consistent bed time and morning alarm Go to bed and wake at the same time every day – yes, even on weekends. It helps to steady our circadian rhythm.
Move More! Besides all the other great benefits (see my last blog), exercise helps us get high quality sleep.
Play Outside If you can exercise outside, even better. Regardless, try to get some time outside as it helps cue our circadian rhythm.