Three Strategies for Better Sleep

Next to the benefits of a healthy diet, sleep is one of the most essential requirements for maintaining optimal physical and mental wellbeing. Individuals who have normal and consistent sleep patterns benefit from increased longevity, improved brain health, higher HDL levels, and healthy blood sugar levels.

This is no big surprise because sleep restores you in a way that nothing else can. While you sleep, your brain is able to rest, replenishing its energy reserves in preparation for the next day. A good night’s sleep gives your body a chance to repair itself, recovering from the daily stresses of living a busy life and mending any cellular damage incurred along the way.

But one of the most important benefits of a good night’s sleep is having increased mental acuity, energy, and stamina. This allows you to spend quality time with your family and appreciate the small pleasures in your day-to-day routine. However, when sleep becomes compromised, late nights get even later, mornings come even sooner, and before long, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle resulting in mild but chronic sleep debt.


The good news is that when it comes to sleep, quality is more important than quantity. You don’t necessarily need to sleep longer, as long as you can sleep better.


With that in mind, here are three important habits to improve the quality of your sleep:


1. Black Out Your Bedroom

Exposure to even the smallest amount of light can inhibit melatonin, your primary sleep hormone. When there’s not enough melatonin, falling asleep and staying asleep can be more difficult. Invest in blackout curtains that block any outside light and be sure to remove any night lights, cover-up alarm clock displays, and any other seemingly innocuous light sources with a strip of painter’s tape or premade blackout stickers made for this purpose. The goal is to make your bedroom dark enough that you can’t see your hand when you hold it in front of your face.


2. Engage in Regular Exercise

Studies have found that people who maintain a consistent workout schedule sleep much better. Some research suggests that exercising in the morning may improve sleep later in the evening but in reality, any kind of physical activity will likely help you sleep more deeply, even if your workout is shortly before bed.

Whether it’s a brisk walk, a short run, a bike ride, lifting weights, or going for a walk, your body will have a much better time of drifting off and staying asleep throughout the night.


3. Have a Glass of Wine Before Bed

At higher doses, alcohol is never your friend when it comes to a good night’s sleep. But sleep studies have found that if you drink a small amount of alcohol in the evening, you are much more likely to enjoy the deeper, more rejuvenating sleep during the REM cycle that your body needs to recover. Large amounts of alcohol before bed may help you fall asleep more quickly but will prevent you from staying asleep during the second half of the night.

So enjoy a small glass of wine with dinner. It may help you sleep deeper, especially if you’re drinking natural wine that’s lower in alcohol.

And there you have it – cheers to a better night’s sleep!


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Dr. Joseph Wahl