It’s no secret that sleep is incredibly important. Besides providing the energy and focus to tackle our workdays, a good night’s sleep can result in decreased risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease, increased memory function, a better mood, and even a longer life. But try as we might to get enough sleep, it’s easier said than done. So, in honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, we’re determined to change our sleep habits for the better. We tapped the brain of Shawn Stevenson, creator of The Model Health Show podcast and author of Sleep Smarter (out March 15), to find out simple strategies to hit the hay more soundly tonight and beyond.
Curb the Caffeine
For many of us, caffeine—and coffee in particular—is a gift. But, it’s also one of the major culprits in sleep disturbance. “It’s easy to forget that caffeine is a very powerful nervous system stimulant,” says Stevenson, adding that ingesting caffeine even as much as six hours before bed is enough to create measurable disturbance in our sleep cycles. Don’t panic, you don’t need to kick the habit entirely, but Stevenson suggests curbing it to before noon only. If you need a pick me up later in the day, he suggests going for a quick power walk or having a conversation with a good friend, both of which can release endorphins and leave you feeling more awake with no side effects later in the night.
Go With Your Gut
What we eat can dramatically impact sleep. According to Stevenson, that’s because our gut is filled with neurotransmitters, similar to the brain, that control the secretion of hormones like serotonin and melatonin. So a balanced microbiome can mean more balanced sleep. To keep our guts happy, Stevenson suggests eating organic, locally grown, and unprocessed foods for the bulk of our diet, as well as eating three to five servings of foods that contain what he calls “good sleep nutrients,” or nutrients that have been associated with sleep disruptions when deficient, such as Vitamin C, potassium, and omega-3s.
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