Fitness Stimulus Plan – Sleep It Off – 10 Mandates for Better Sleep

The quantity and quality of sleep is one of the best predictors of how long you’re going to live. Skimping on shut-eye lowers immunity and increases the risk of a host of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early-onset Alzheimer’s. In America 70% of adults report they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month. It is estimated a third of adults do not get enough sleep regularly. The National Sleep Foundation recommends Teenagers should get 8-10 hours a night, adults 7-9 hours and 7-8 hours for over 65 years.

Here are 10 ways to aid a better rest.

Keep Cool

Turn down the heat before heading to bed. Our circadian rhythm works best with night temperatures between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures signal the brain to produce more of the sleep hormone melatonin. Recent findings suggest that chilling out at night also encourages the body to expand “brown fat,” a type of tissue that boosts metabolism. Thick pajamas or an overly toasty bed can sabotage your sleep. Moisture-wicking sleepwear or thermal-regulating mattress pads help control body temperature. New mattresses often have cooling technology, and the bed of the future may well look like Sleep Number’s Climate360, due out sometime in 2021. This “smart bed” adjusts the temperature on each side of the mattress throughout the night, warming you when you first tuck in and then cooling down to keep your sleep going strong until morning.

Do the Light Right

In terms of light exposure, it’s not just what you do at night that matters. It’s also what you do in the daytime. Make sure you get bright light in the morning and avoid it in the evening. As bedtime approaches, dim the lights to tell your brain that you’re getting ready to sleep.

Blue light, which is emitted by phones, tablets, and other screens, has the largest effect on melatonin suppression. Try and put your phone or tablet away at least an hour before bed which let’s face it is easier said than done. Use blue-light-blocking glasses and screen covers in the hours before bedtime, as well as putting warm-light bulbs in your bedside lamp.

Wake Up Smart

If you’re starting your day groggy, foggy, and irritable, forget about the “wrong side of the bed.” You likely woke up in the wrong phase of your sleep cycle. Our brains are designed to be roused from light sleep, not the more active REM stage, which occurs throughout the night and, for most people, becomes longer and deeper toward morning. Cutting-edge sleep headbands use electrodes to read your brain waves and wake you at the optimal moment of your sleep cycle, but come at a price. A more affordable option: So-called “sunrise” alarms gently return you to consciousness with a combination of pleasant sounds (think birdsong and classical music) and light that mimics the morning sun.

The Mattress

Most people would agree that the mattress is the most important component for a good night’s sleep. The right mattress depends on your weight, your preferred sleep position, and even your age. As we get older, the layer of fat just below our skin diminishes, so we have less natural cushioning, so we need a softer bed. The ideal mattress provides enough support to prevent sinking at the hips and to let your muscles (especially the ones in your back) relax. Look for something that is medium-firm. It should contour to your body while still providing adequate support.

The Pillows

Try the pillow fold test. Fold it in half. If it doesn’t spring back then it is no longer offering you good support. Most pillows have a life span of about 18 months, while memory-foam options may last up to three years. There are endless options for pillow models. L-shaped models let you wrap your arms around one side and rest your head on the other, which is meant to improve spinal alignment. Pillows with arm tunnels are for people who like to sleep with an arm under their head and are tired of waking up with numb fingers. Some manufacturers make options for back and stomach sleepers (designed to reduce snoring by positioning the head so the airway remains open) and an option for side sleepers. The key for side sleepers is that a pillow needs to fill the area between the outer ear and the outer shoulder to help maintain alignment in the neck and spine.

Time of Year

Your bedroom is like your wardrobe, it needs to change with the weather. Trade your comforter for a linen blanket in the summer. During spring and fall, when temperatures vary, use a cozy comforter that’s one size smaller than your bed. It sits on top, and when you sleep, it’s easy to poke out an arm or a leg.

Cut Your Stress

 An evening drop in cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, is part of the body’s natural progression toward sleep. Unfortunately, anxiety can interfere with the drop, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. One simple antidote to middle-of-the-night mind games is a weighted blanket, which provides what scientists call deep pressure stimulation (DPS). Research shows that DPS can decrease activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which promotes alertness in the face of stress, while increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, These changes result in decreased cortisol. A 12-pound blanket works best for most people. Consistent mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and improve sleep. If you’ve tried and failed at the “sit and watch your thoughts” approach, you might want to check out the new high-tech headbands that gives feedback on your brain activity, breathing, and heart rate to encourage effective meditation. The band also offers guided meditations to help you drift off to sleep.

Volume Down

Anyone who’s had a baby in recent years is probably familiar with white noise, a fanlike whirring sound that can block out barking dogs, siblings’ tantrums, and other baby-waking household noise. But there is also pink noise. In a 2017 study, researchers found that this combination of frequencies—which sounds flatter than the more staticky white noise—increased deep sleep and improved memory in older adults. Many companies are thinking pink when designing their noise machines. A number of studies have revealed that listening to relaxing music before bed can improve sleep quality. Soothing music can slow the heart rate and breathing and lower blood pressure. All these physiological changes can help us fall asleep.

Aromas

Lavender has long been a sleep-inducing staple, and for good reason: Studies have shown that using lavender oil for aromatherapy can enhance sleep quality, even for people with insomnia, depression, and anxiety. The scent interacts with the neuro-transmitter GABA to help quiet the brain and nervous system, reducing agitation, anger, aggression, and restlessness Sleep is a ritual behavior, many habits you perform before bed—diffusing essential oil, taking a bath—can cue your brain to start winding down.

Bedroom Colors

When painting your bedroom, or even replacing your pillowcases, select tones that are relaxing. Choose cool and neutral color palettes. Choose something that makes you happy but isn’t too stimulating. High gloss reflects light, which can make it much more difficult to sleep. Stick with matte or eggshell and save that shiny wallpaper for the living room

Don’t give up on your dreams. Keep sleeping.

Love,

~Uncle Sam

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