Sleep is what most of us look forward to at the end of a long day, and something many of us feel we don’t get enough of. While there’s still a lot to learn about sleep and why we need it, we're now beginning to understand that sleep greatly impacts the health and destiny of our brains.
Aside from impacting your energy level, sleep seems to play a unique role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Whether or not you get enough quality sleep on a daily basis can dramatically increase or decrease your risk for Alzheimer’s. This is a major reason why it’s so important to do everything you can to get the best sleep possible, as frequently as possible.
In addition to impacting your Alzheimer’s risk, sleep has the power to influence how hungry you feel and how much you eat, how fast your metabolism runs, whether you become overweight or stay slender, whether you can fight off infection, how creative you might be, how insightful you might be, and even how compassionate you can become.
With the hectic pace of modern day life, sleep might feel like a luxury you can't afford. However, from a medical perspective, it's absolutely essential to get good sleep if you want to keep your body and brain healthy.
Experts explain poor quality sleep is linked to Alzheimer's disease, so it's important to understand specific ways you can achieve better quality sleep. Here are 10 simple steps you can take to improve your sleep starting today:
Step 1: Maintain a sleep schedule that allows for 7 to 9 hours of sleep
Having a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends, is one of the most important steps to mastering a perfect night of sleep. This step is vital because it helps set the pace of your body’s circadian rhythm. When you wake up, the light comes into your eyes and resets that rhythm every single morning. If you do this consistently, your brain will know what to do and when to do it every single day. Try and stick to one sleep schedule seven days a week, and you’ll be well on your way to better sleep.
Step 2: Stop caffeine by 2:00 PM
You might want to reach for the pot of coffee when the afternoon slump hits around 2:30 PM, but doing so may impact the quality of your sleep. Remember, the half life of caffeine is 6 to 8 hours, so stopping caffeine by 2:00 PM is important if you’re planning a bedtime that’s around 10:00 P.M. or earlier. In other words, an 8 oz cup of coffee has around 100 mg of caffeine so having a coffee at 4:00 pm means you will still have 50mg of caffeine in your system at 10:00 P.M!
Step 3: Avoid alcohol within 3 hours of your bedtime
It’s perfectly fine to enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage in the evening. The problem arises, however, if you indulge in that glass of wine or beer too close to going to bed. If your body is still digesting alcohol when you lie down, this could affect the quality of your sleep you get early in the night. Give yourself about 3 hours before lights out so that the alcohol has already been digested and won't have a major effect on your sleep.
Step 4: Exercise regularly
Getting exercise during the day can help strengthen your circadian rhythm, promote daytime alertness, and help you feel sleepy when it’s time to turn out the lights. However, make sure you don't exercise too close to bedtime because this can raise your body temperature and disrupt sleep. Try to get your exercise completed at least 4 hours before bedtime, which will give you time to relax before bed.
Step 5: Get sunlight in the morning
Believe it or not, sunlight stops the release of melatonin in your brain, and that can be really helpful in waking up and regulating your circadian rhythm. Within 30 minutes of waking up, walk outside or go to a window and get some direct sunlight.
Step 6: Cool your room to between 65ºF and 75ºF at night
Your sleep cycle follows your core body temperature cycle. In the evening your temperature falls, and that fall is a signal to your brain that it is time to sleep. Sleeping in a cooler environment will encourage that temperature drop, which will help you get to sleep quicker and easier. If you live in a hot climate and cooling your room to 75º F isn’t possible, try to shoot for 30º to 35º below the daily high.
Step 7: Avoid blue light at nighttime
Blue light emitted by electronic devices like cell phones, TVs, and computers, blocks your brain’s production of melatonin. In a nutshell, too much exposure to blue light too close to bedtime can make falling asleep quite difficult. If you can’t avoid screens late at night, try wearing blue light blocking glasses for 2 to 3 hours before you go to sleep.
Step 8: Do a meditation practice before bed
Meditation is a wonderful tool for stress relief, reducing anxiety, and getting your mind and body relaxed and ready for sleep. Practicing meditation before bed can go a long way towards putting you in the mood for sleep. If you’ve never tried meditation before, there are plenty of resources out there but breathing meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and certain guided meditation apps can be a great place to start.
Step 9: Get tested for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a fairly common sleep disturbance, and roughly 70% of people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed. When it comes to getting all the benefits that sleep has to offer, it’s not just about how many hours you spend asleep, but what’s happening during those hours. If you aren’t waking up feeling rested then you might look into a sleep study to see if sleep apnea is an issue for you.
Step 10: Ask your doctor about supplements for sleep
There are a number of supplements that can help you get to sleep and even sleep better throughout the night. Consider talking to your healthcare provider about the various nutritional supplements that may help you with sleep like magnesium and melatonin and others depending on your specific situation.
Always remember one of my mantras., "The more you know about how your body works, the better you can take care of yourself."
For more details about the natural approach I take with my patients, take a look at the book I wrote entitled: Reclaim Your Life; Your Guide To Revealing Your Body's Life-Changing Secrets For Renewed Health. It is available in my office or at Amazon and many other book outlets. If you found value in this article, please use the social sharing icons at the top of this post and please share with those you know who are still suffering with chronic health challenges, despite receiving medical management. Help me reach more people so they may regain their zest for living!