Improve Sleep & Lower Stress

Tips to Improve Sleep & Lower Stress

Sleep

When we are well-rested, we make better decisions. A poor night's sleep:

  • Makes us less sensitive to insulin (which leads to weight gain).
  • Lowers leptin and increases ghrelin (which makes us hungrier throughout the day)
  • Increases cortisol (which makes us hungrier and also gain fat)
  • Reduces Human Growth Hormone (which increases fat storage)

For most people, 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is ideal. In addition to the amount of sleep you get, it is important to look at the quality of your sleep. Do you wake up well-rested? Do you toss and turn? If so, you may want to improve your sleep hygiene.

Try the follow to improve your sleep:

  • Set and stick to a bed time!
  • Turn devices (phone, computer, tablet, TV) off 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Black your room out or sleep with a sleep mask.
  • Use a white noise machine.
  • Go outside and get a minimum of 30 minutes of sunlight during the day.
  • Take a magnesium supplement (such as Natural Calm) or take an epsom salt bath before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day. The half-life of caffeine is 5 to 6 hours.
  • Front-load water intake earlier in the day and avoid drinking before bed so you don't have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  • If you have a hard time "turning your brain off", write whatever is on your mind on a piece of paper. It will be there for you when you wake up!
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evening. Nicotine and alcohol can disturb sleep. Big meals right before bed can cause indigestion, making sleep less comfortable. Avoid eating large meals 2 to 3 hours before bed. If you're hungry before bed, have a snack 45 minutes before going to sleep.

Stress

When we are chronically stressed, we are placing ourselves in a constant state of fight-or-flight. An overproduction of cortisol (the stress hormone) can lead to weight gain, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and high blood pressure.

We all manage stress differently! Find something that helps you manage your stress whether it's yoga, listening to music, walking outside, foam rolling, reading or spending time with friends. Find something that works for you!

Here are five tips to lower stress levels during the day:

  1. Go for a short walk.... without your phone! Giving yourself a bit of space during the day can help lower stress levels.
  2. Reach for herbal tea or sparkling water instead of coffee in the afternoon. Caffeine can exacerbate stress levels!
  3. Find something to focus on (not the screen of a device!) for two minutes (preferably something natural such as a tree). Set a timer and focus on that one thing for the two minutes. When the two minutes is up, go back to what you were doing. Repeat 2 to three times per day.
  4. Try meditating! Headspace and Calm are great apps that have free versions to introduce you to meditation. They offer several mediation options that only last a few minutes, so you can use it throughout the day!
  5. Focus on deep breathing:
  • Belly breathing: Place your hand on your stomach (below the ribcage) and take deep breaths in through your nose. You should feel your hand on your stomach rise up as you inhale. Exhale by letting the air escape through pursed lips (as if you were whistling) and feel the hand on your stomach sink back down toward your spine. Repeat 3 to 10 times.
  • 4-7-8 breathing: Place one hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath from your belly, counting to 4 as you inhale. Hold your breath as you count to 7. Exhale completely as you count to 8. Repeat 3 to 10 times.

 

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