Why can’t anyone seem to sleep well anymore? One reason is that most of us are unwittingly doing virtually everything in our power to prevent sleep from happening. Between our overly-wired up lifestyles and all kinds of work and life stressors, it’s easy to understand why few of us are resting easy these days. On this blog I’ve often written about sleep because people always ask me how to do it better and where to find a simple plan that will make their problem go away. In that cut-to-the-chase spirit, I’ve arranged my top tips into a step-by-step guide to help you sleep better tonight – and set the stage for more restful nights to come.
“There’s plenty of time for sleep in the grave!” That’s what my best friend used to say in college, so we spent four years running on way too little sleep. Whether we were up late studying or partying, sleep was the lowest priority. Now I’m older, wiser and an avid sleeper! Here’s why sleep has become a top priority:
When we’re sick or injured, we all know that getting plenty of rest is important. This is because during sleep your muscles and soft tissues heal and scar tissue develops. Scar tissue is the dense fiber that the body creates to repair injuries, whether it’s a sudden injury or a chronic injury that develops over time.
Though sleep disorders are hardly new – even Aristotle wrote about them – our modern round-the-clock lifestyles, plus caffeine, alcohol, lack of exercise, stress, and a myriad of other factors have conditioned our bodies to stay awake. Sleep at times seems like the impossible dream and staying up is wearing us out. So is there hope for the bleary-eyed? Is a good night’s rest even possible these days? Absolutely! But first, you’ll need to brush up on your sleeping skills and make a few simple daytime changes so you can sleep better tonight. Here’s where to start:
Tossing and turning. Sleeping but not waking up feeling refreshed. Waking up during the night. Though they’re all common complaints, that doesn’t make them any less aggravating. Trouble is, much of what we do during the day can undermine our ability to sleep at night. So what’s a bleary-eyed person to do? Make a few simple changes by day to snooze like a pro at night. Here’s where to start:
New research shows that sleep significantly influences metabolism, appetite and weight management. Could getting more shuteye help you ward off excess pounds? When I was in college, I often began my homework at midnight. Nothing seemed to focus my thoughts on a term paper better than a morning deadline. I knew this routine wasn’t a wise one — after all, I might crash facedown in my textbook. But I told myself that adrenaline improved my writing. Besides, I figured I was losing weight on those nights with only four hours of sleep. I assumed that all that effort to stay awake and functional had to be zapping away the day’s calories. Turns out that I was greatly mistaken.
How many of us regularly experience such exhaustion that by day’s end we don’t know which way is up? And why then do we make excuses for taking extra time to rest when we are so overextended? In the United States, especially here in New York, we too often think something’s wrong if anyone around us needs rest. We act like choosing to rest in our everyday lives, when not reserved for a destination spa or vacation, connotes a problem, feebleness, or an illness demanding special explanation. This doesn’t make any sense. It is seriously time to reshape how we approach rest.
There's a reason that most so-called primitive cultures have avoided the depression epidemic afflicting industrialized nations. In a provocative book, a clinical psychologist suggests that adopting more "hunter-gatherer" habits can help us escape the blues. According to the latest research, about one in four Americans — more than 70 million people — will meet the criteria for major depression at some point in their lives. The rate of depression in industrialized societies has been on the rise for decades — it’s roughly 10 times higher today than it was just two generations ago. How can people possibly be so much more vulnerable to depression now? And how do you make sense of the fact that even though antidepressant use has skyrocketed in recent years, the rate of depression in the United States hasn’t declined, but rather increased?
One of the toughest parts of my job as a nutrition coach is helping people to quit coffee. This recommendation is never well received! It’s harder than giving up sugar or alcohol for most people. Trust me, I can relate. I clung fiercely to my morning cup of coffee for a long time, even though I didn’t like feeling so addicted, I was uneasy about the chemicals and pesticides in coffee, and I wanted to create my own energy throughout the day instead of relying on my morning fix. What’s the problem with coffee? Coffee is very acidic and dehydrating. Coffee taxes your adrenal glands, as well as your liver and kidneys. And caffeine seriously disrupts your sleep. Coffee has a half-life of 7 hours, so it stays in your system for a long time.
Think about how you’d feel right now if you were resting on a soft blanket, under the stars in a meadow of beautiful flowers, with a soft breeze ... That’s the feeling you want to have when you go to sleep each night. And now you can. With flower essences: aqueous infusions of specific flowers that help relax you during the day and sleep more deeply at night.
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