One in three Americans are not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night, and that recommendation might be too low for some people.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep
Research Society, sleeping less than seven hours a day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental stress. (1)
Besides serious health problems, not enough sleep can lead to accidents, decreased intelligence, decreased sex drive, depression, aging skin, weight gain, impaired judgementand death.
Just hearing those statistics increases my mental stress.
And of-course stress can cause or increase sleep difficulties. Urrgh!
What to do?
Unbeknownst to the masses, there is one option that can help replace the sleep you didn’t get last night. It doesn’t take long and there are no negative side effects. In fact, there are several amazing benefits.
That’s right – Meditation.
A quick 20 minute “med” as we call them in our home, gives your body the same rest as it would during a 1 1/2-hour nap, but without waking up with that groggy, “sleep hangover” feeling. (2) In fact, you will probably get an energy boost instead.
Meditation also improves memory. “Now where did I put those keys?” It enhances attention and creativity, slows the aging process, and turns off the stress response. In actually reverses most of the problems that lack of sleep creates.
But I digress. More about meditation in other articles.
Back to sleep.
Try a Relaxation Exercise
Generally, you don’t want to do physical exercise right before going to bed because it makes it even harder to “wind-down” and relax so you can fall asleep. But relaxation exercises are different.
Listening to a guided relaxation exercise or the right types of music before bed can initiate that relaxation response and help you fall asleep more quickly and more deeply.
Get Some Sunshine
What does the bright light of the sun have to do with a great night’s sleep? A lot. Bright light and darkness work together to regulate melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.
When blue light from the sun or artificial sources such as computer screens fades, melatonin production kicks in. This is why sleep experts tell us to turn off the screens at least an hour before bed to help us sleep better. For more information on how that all works check out this article Why Bright Lights and Dark Nights are Essential for Sleep.
Phyllis Zee, a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist explains there are even more benefits to getting outside, even in the winter time. “There is increasing evidence that exposure to light during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism.” (3) However, if you are too cold to get outside in the winter, I have found a few great Sun Lights to fill the need of bright lights, which you can find here.
If meditation, relaxation, and going outside in the winter aren’t enough, check out these other “how to get better sleep” articles:
Our health, immune system, mental acuity, emotional state, relationships, physical growth, performance, and even our waistline is affected by our quality of sleep. For many of us, this good quality sleep is getting harder to come by. Here are some answers on how to get the best sleep possible.
As the body adapts to an increase in exercise, metabolism skyrockets
The best way to train your body to use stored fuel is through exercise
Remember in biology class when you learned about the parts of the cell and you wondered why you had to know this stuff?
Really, when would you ever use this information in real life?
Well here it is.
The Powerful Mitochondria
Inside of the cell is the “powerhouse,” organelle known as the mitochondria. Mitochondria produce the energy that a cell needs to perform its functions; divide, move, etc. In cells that are not required to do very much work,(such as an unfit muscle cell), there is one, wimpy mitochondria. It doesn’t provide much energy. It just hangs around, bored and out of shape. To make matters worse, the fuel lines (arteries and capillaries) to these kinds of cells are usually out of shape, plaque ridden, and few and far between. These conditions lead to some lonely, bored, and depressed mitochondria.
Then one day, the woman in whose body these cells reside decides to get up and move a bit. Let’s call her Suzy. At first the cells don’t take Suzy seriously. They think she is just running to the refrigerator so the mitochondria grab the stored fuel in the cell to get her there, (remember ATP?) But it runs out immediately and she is still moving. Next they go for other sources of fuel in the cell, and then the glucose (sugar), but there’s not much of that either.
As Suzy continues to move, the cells send messages to the brain telling it that they need more fuel. After a while, the brain reluctantly sends a message to the fat cells to release some of the reserves. But this fuel has a hard time making it to the mitochondria. Suzy hasn’t exercised in a long time and her arteries are not equipped to handle the load. To make matters worse, cells need oxygen to convert the fat into fuel. Not only are Suzy’s lungs unable to absorb the extra oxygen from the air she breathes, but her blood is unable to ship it to where it is needed.
Suzy tires out quickly. She is out of breath and overwhelmed with the loud complaints coming from the muscles in the form of aches and pains. Her brain however, realizes that if she keeps doing this she will be stronger which furthers the chance of her survival, so it rewards her with “feel good” chemicals called endorphins (lovingly referred to as the “morphine within”). These endorphins will actually reduce pain and help her feel good.
Suzy is exhausted, so she goes to bed early and sleeps well that night, BUT HER BODY DOESN’T! It is busy repairing the damage that she did to it while she was exercising. This repair work requires energy, which burns a lot of calories, maybe even more calories than she burned while exercising! While Suzy sleeps, the body, which doesn’t like to be caught off guard, is worried that she might try this exercise thing again tomorrow. SUZY’S METABOLISM SKYROCKETS as cells are repaired and waste products are eliminated.
As the days go by and Suzy continues to exercise, her body is trained to burn more and more fat while it creates her new look. Her body is forming new arteries, creating new muscle tissue, and shifting some of the fat from around her waist to inside of her muscles where it is needed. Best of all, the mitochondria in each cell have doubled. Now they are efficient, competent, and not so lonely mitochondria. Suzy is literally full of energy.
People often say, “I have a slow metabolism.” Then I say, “okay, change it.” The best way to boost your metabolic rate is to train the body to become an efficient, fuel releasing, fuel burning machine, THROUGH EXERCISE.
There are other things that can boost metabolism temporarily, but the overall effects are not even close to what exercise can do for you.
SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a more extreme form of the winter blues
Sunlight, or lack of it, plays a large role in SAD
Sunshine and Light Therapy can be used to regulate hormones and reduce SAD
Many of us dread the coming of winter, the darkness, the cold, the increased risk of getting the flu.
About 10 to 20 percent of the American population suffers from what is commonly referred to as the “winter blues.”
A smaller percentage, from about 4 to 6%, suffers from a more extreme form of the winter blues called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
SAD is a type of seasonal depression that shows up most of the time in late fall and lasts through the winter months, although there is a rare form that shows up in a smaller number of people in the late spring and lasts through the summer. In winter version of this disorder people suffer symptoms of depression including;
Hormones, including melatonin, regulate our sleep/wake cycle
The best ways to keep it dark for sleeping
Getting natural light during the day helps regulate your circadian rhythm
The human wake and sleep cycle is naturally regulated by the bright light of day and the darkness of night.
When the light of day first hits the retina and stimulates a nerve pathway to the hypothalamus, it sets off a chain reaction that sends messages to other parts of the brain that help us feel more awake, like raising body temperature and increasing hormones like cortisol.1
The body also decreases the production of other hormones like melatonin which is both a hormone and an antioxidant.2
Melatonin, sometimes referred to as the “Dracula of Hormones,” is made by your pineal gland which is inactive during the day, but is turned on when the sun goes down and darkness occurs.1 Melatonin production helps us to fall asleep and to stay asleep during the night.