The Secret Ingredient to Better Health
On weekends when you don’t have to set an alarm, sleep may feel like
a luxury. In fact, sleep is the farthest thing from a luxury—it’s
a necessity for preventing disease, supporting your immune system and
optimizing mental function. Americans have been pretty cavalier about
sleep for a long time, but new research over the last decade proves that
the connection between adequate sleep and good health is clear.
Sleep gives your body a chance to repair and rebuild vital cells and tissue.
Some critical restorative functions happen almost exclusively while you
sleep, such as muscle growth, protein synthesis and tissue repair. Cutting
your nightly snooze session short can also interfere with the hormones
that regulate metabolism, appetite regulation and stress response—which
could increase your risk of obesity, among other things. Most importantly,
data shows that regularly sleeping fewer than eight hours a night seems
to increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension,
obesity, lowered immune function and the common cold. Ultimately, insufficient
sleep can even affect life expectancy.
“Years of research makes it clear: good sleep is so essential to
good health,” explains Dr. Crystal Bowe of CaroMont Family Medicine
– Gaston Day. “People who are looking to improve their health
and prevent disease should not only embrace regular exercise and good
nutrition—they need to incorporate a healthy sleep routine. It’s
just as important.”
In honor of national Better Sleep Month, our team surveyed a few practitioners
from our primary care practices, as well as sleep specialists from
CaroMontHealth Sleep Medicine Center, for their best suggestions to improve your sleep routine:
- Stick to a sleep schedule.
One word here: bedtime. Yep. Set regular times for going to sleep and waking
up and stick to them—even on the weekend. This creates a natural
rhythm, making it easier for your body to sleep.
2.Take it easy on drinks and dinner.
Make sure you aren’t going to bed too full (or hungry, for that matter).
Heavy meals can be harder to digest, so avoid chowing down too close to
bedtime. Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can also disrupt sleep patterns,
so watch what you’re consuming in the hours before bed.
3.Don’t bring worries into the bedroom.
Research is clear on one thing: your bed should be reserved for sleeping
and sex. Watching TV, checking emails, worrying about an issue at work—all
of those activities stimulate your brain, making sleep more difficult.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary and only go in when you’re ready to relax.
4.Create a bedtime ritual.
If your nightly wind-down consists of scrolling Facebook on your phone
until you can’t keep your eyes open…well, it’s time
to try something else. Put together an easy, calming series of activities
that will help you relax your mind and body before bed each night. A warm
bath, light reading, yoga or prayer, deep breathing and aromatherapy can
cue your body up for a restful night’s sleep.
5.See a doctor if your sleep issues continue.
We all have the occasional bout of insomnia, but if you’re regularly
struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep or simply get enough sleep each
night, talk to your doctor. There may be some simple lifestyle changes
you can try, or your care provider may recommend you see the specialists at
CaroMont Health Sleep Medicine Center. Either way, it’s important to get the help you need now so that
your body can get the sleep it needs.