Sleep Your Way to Health

Sleep Your Way to Health

Sleep ranks in the top 5 habits of healthy people; its benefits extending far beyond just feeling good when you wake up in the morning.   Adequate sleep decreases stress levels, improves memory, and decreases inflammation which is associated with heart attack, stroke, diabetes and arthritis.  Getting good rest will also help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight; sleep and appetite are controlled in the same part of the brain and the more sleep deprived we are, the greater our appetite.  If it’s your goal to be healthy, you’ll want to assess your sleep habits and begin to create a healthy sleep routine.  

The goal is to achieve seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and while you may think that you can get away with less sleep, and just catch up on the weekends by sleeping in, your body will suffer for it.  Research states that chronic sleep deprivation can alter our mental and physical health, which hinders our ability to carry out daily tasks and responsibilities.  While you may feel a bit more energetic after sleeping in on a Saturday morning, studies conclude that the mental and physical abilities of sleep-study participants still suffered even after three days of playing catch up.  Chronic sleep deprivation also disrupts our circadian rhythm which can make it difficult to fall asleep even though your body is feeling tired and ready for rest.  While it’s ideal to get seven to eight hours of sleep, there are many people who are short on this goal.  If you happen to reside in this category, it’s time to create a healthy sleep routine so you can improve your health for the long-haul.  This routine will take time to achieve, sometimes even months, but in the end you’ll be able to reprogram your circadian rhythm, and achieve the seven to eight hours of sleep your body needs.   

Here are a few strategies to help you snooze soundly and create long-term health.  As I always say, creating a healthy sleep routine means you must treat yourself like a child.  That’s what I’m suggesting, that you create a routine just like you would for a small child; if you do so you’ll achieve the seven to eight hours of sleep you need for optimal health and productivity.   

  • Structure:   

Have a set bedtime every night so things stay consistent.  The average adult needs 7-8 hours of consistent shut-eye in order to be most productive, and feel well.  This means heading to bed around 10:00 p.m. every night and waking around 6:00 a.m.  It is best to keep this schedule on the weekends as well; it allows your circadian clock to stay on track for consistent sleep all week long.   

Got kids?   

Children should be provided the following according to the National Sleep Foundation: 

Newborns:  Sleep in irregular patterns anywhere from 10.5 – 18 hours per day. 

3 – 11 months:  9-12 hours every night plus 2-4 naps during the day 

1 – 3 years:  12-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (including naps) 

3 – 5 years:  11-13 hours every night 

5-12 years:  10-11 hours every night 

  • Avoid Caffeine:   

Just as we wouldn’t feed our children caffeine, especially right before bed, we should honor the same for ourselves.  If you do choose to drink caffeine in the day it is best to stop all caffeine after 2:00 p.m.  This will give your body enough time to process the caffeine before you head off to sleep.   

  • Quiet Time: 

Most often, children have a bed time routine which includes all the proper cleaning of food from the face, teeth brushing, a trip to the potty and a sweet bed-time story.   You’ll notice there was no “checking email, texting, or working on the computer” included in the routine.  Keep your routine as clean as a child’s routine.  Shut down all technology and phones at least one hour before heading to bed in order to achieve optimal sleep.  Take an hour of time before bed to relax, listen to classical music, read, journal about your day, or spend time with your significant other.   

  • Eat Well: 

We all need three balanced meals a day, and maybe a snack here and there.  I can’t imagine sitting my children down to a big meal at 8:00 at night and then sending them right off to bed.  As adults, especially if we’re entertaining or out with clients, we tend to eat large meals loaded with excess fat and salt late at night.  The purpose of sleep is to allow the body to repair and replenish.  Your blood is purified, your liver detoxifies the body, and all your organs are resetting for another day.  The body needs to be able to focus all of its energy on this, so when you have food in the gut that needs to be digested, the body will give up some of its “repair” energy for the needed digestion.   Make breakfast and lunch your biggest meals and go light for dinner.  As a rule, all meals should be consumed 3 hours before bed.  If you need a light snack before bed, eat an hour before you go to sleep.  Some foods known to aid in sleep are:  oats, bananas, tart cherries or tart cherry juice, and almonds.  Prepare a light snack of these foods and enjoy it 30-60 minutes before heading to bed.   

  • Eat, Play, Sleep: 

If you’ve read a book about raising a child it may have included the theory of “eat, play, sleep”.  This routine ensures that your child has structure in the day and gets plenty of activity before nap and bedtime.  We need the same in our lives.  Activity is important for sleep, as well as play!  Be sure to get up from the desk, take a walk and get fresh air.  Accomplish 30 minutes of exercise every day and schedule “play time” into your calendar.   Think about the activities you loved to do as a child and start incorporating some of that same activity in your life today, there’s no age limit for playing in the sandbox!  If you enjoy a nap, it could help you in health as long as you do not sleep for longer than 20 minutes at a time; this short nap will allow you to reboot without creating problems with your circadian clock.  It’s best to nap in the late morning or early afternoon before 3:00 p.m.   

Remember that it’ll take time to create a supportive sleep routine and achieve the seven to eight hours of sleep you need for long-term health.  Begin by making small changes so you eventually achieve your sleep goals.  If you head to bed at midnight every night, you surely won’t be able to switch to a 10:00 bedtime right away.  Start small and build up.  Go to bed at 11:45 p.m. for a few nights, then move it up to 11:30 p.m. and continue moving up by 15-min increments until you reach your 10:00 p.m. goal.  The pay-off is huge; you’ll feel better physically and emotionally and you’re most productive and happy when you’re adequately refreshed and energized. 

Happy snoozing!! 

It’s a pleasure to serve you!  Feel free to email me with comments or questions: connect@AngelaGaffney.com


XO, 

RECIPE: 

Nutty Granola

Ingredients:

2 cups GF oats 

½ cup pecans, chopped 

½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds  

½ cup almonds, chopped 

½ cup coconut, shredded 

½ cup dried blueberries 

½ cup dried cherries 

½ cup dried cranberries 

¼ cup coconut oil 

¼ cup plus 2 TBSP maple syrup 

¼ cup plus 2 TBSP agave nectar 

¼ tsp nutmeg 

½ tsp cinnamon 

½ tsp salt 

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a parchment lined sheet pan, toast oats for 12 minutes, turning once. Pour oats into a large mixing bowl. Using the same parchment and sheet pan, toast pecans, pepitas and almonds for 5 minutes. Pour toasted nuts into bowl with oats. Into the same bowl, add coconut, cherries, blueberries and cranberries. Toss all ingredients together. In a 2 quart sauce pan, bring to a boil remaining ingredients, stirring frequently. Let it hard boil for 5 minutes. Drizzle syrup over the dry ingredients. Stir until well coated. Coat the sheet pan with coconut oil and spread the granola mixture evenly onto the pan. Bake the granola until it’s golden brown, turning every 5 minutes. Approximate baking time will be 20-30 minutes, just remove granola when it is golden. Let the granola cool and break it up into large pieces. Store in large mason jars. 

Recipe compliments of The Daily Essentials Cookbook Collection:  Breakfast.  Authored by Angela Gaffney and Janielle Hultberg 

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