Tips to help you optimize your sleep

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Sleeping InYour job is intense. You might find it’s hard to “shut off” your brain (and heart) after so many gut-wrenching encounters. But the fact is if we don’t value shuteye, our bodies will suffer on many levels. Poor or lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of obesity, illness, and depression, among other conditions. In other words, you can’t be at your best if you’re not sleeping enough and the slumber isn’t quality.

But where to begin? You don’t have to make changes overnight — pun intended — but committing to small changes can add up over time. That said, here are a few other points to keep in mind as you prioritize sleep hygiene.

First, it’s a good idea to help your body make the transition from being alert and awake to getting in the mode that allows for rest and restoration. It’s best to turn off your devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Bright artificial lights could leave you feeling wide awake when your body should be relaxing, thus making it more difficult to fall asleep. It’s also a good idea to avoid strenuous activity a few hours before bed. Experts suggest avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bed and alcohol should be consumed no less than 4 hours before turning in.

Beyond these precautions, you can also look to some other holistic modalities. For instance, look to the power of Mother Nature to comfort. Lavender is naturally soothing and calming. You can find lavender essential oil at your local health food store. Put a few drops on a tissue and place it under your pillow before bed. Inhale the aroma while you drift off to Dreamland.

Another technique that works hand in glove with using essential oils is mindfulness. Meditation is a great way to help your brain turn off after the day’s events. There is a bevy of apps you can download to guide you in your practice. All it takes is 10 minutes to get appreciable results!

Just as the lifestyle modifications mentioned above can help in this way, your sleep environment matters, too. Room temperature is one contributing factor. The cooler you remain during the night, the easier it is to achieve deeper, more restful, states of sleep. Experts agree that about 65 degrees is ideal for slumber. Lightweight, breathable sleepwear helps, too. Some people find that a white noise machine or a fan helps them sleep more soundly.

Remember, when you sleep better, you’re better equipped to manage whatever life throws your way. Here’s to better sleep!