Today, with business hours extending later and later into the night and our minds being kept awake by technology at all hours of the day, it can be difficult to capture those precious hours of rest and relaxation. We choose to play down how critical sleep is to our focus, work performance, mood and, yes, even our eating habits. How often do you find yourself reaching for some candy or additional sugar and caffeine loaded beverages just to help you “power through the day”? Consistently restricting sleep has been correlated with increased appetite and elevated stress levels. So in addition to affecting your waistline, diminished sleep could be affecting your mental health as well.
In French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women Don’t Get Facelifts I emphasize the importance of logging sufficient hours of sleep (the exact number will vary by age). Here are my top ten tips for achieving a good night’s sleep naturally:
- Move during the day! In addition to burning calories, studies have proven that exercise makes it easier to fall asleep.
- Stay away from stimulants, such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. All three substances make us jittery, interrupt our quality of sleep, and affect our ability to fall asleep or have a sound night’s sleep. Many people who rely on caffeine during the day are shocked to learn that it can have a stimulating effect for up to twelve hours after they’ve imbibed.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. Our bodies crave balance, and if we train our bodies to fall asleep and wake up at certain hours, they will eventually listen to our requests. Remember that it is not truly possible to “catch up” on lost hours.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping only. Okay, there’s one other thing that is permitted! But watching TV, doing work, eating or simply lounging in bed can cause problems when it’s time to actually fall asleep.
- Herbal Teas Work Magic. Chamomile, anise, valerian, and fennel-blend teas are known to promote relaxation and help make sleep come easier.
- Turn off the lights earlier. Lights signal to our brains that it’s daytime and can interfere with our bodies’ ability to wind down for sleep.
- Turn off the computer and TV at least a half hour before. Both tend to keep our minds active. Studies have also suggested the blue-light emanated from electronic screens suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy.
- If you can’t sleep for a full half hour, get up and read a book or listen to some soothing music for a little while. Staying bed will only make you more restless.
- Avoid having a very large meal before bedtime. Have your dinner at least two to three hours before you plan on going to sleep. A light supper, starting with an evening soup (often done in French households), is conducive to a great night’s sleep. Of course, there is an occasional exception when dining out with friends or family in a restaurant.
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleep with a bedroom that’s totally dark, well ventilated, and cool.
Bonne nuit, mes amis!