How to Sleep Your Way to Good Health

“Sleep is the best meditation.”
(Dalai Lama)

I discovered Elaine Clara Mah after publishing Can Yoga Make You Feel Better and Happier?, by Alberto G. Guitron. You see, Elaine is a contributing writer at Tripaneer, the same travel website for theme vacations that brought Alberto to us. Alberto writes for BookYogaRetreats and Elaine for BookMeditationRetreats. She is also a yoga instructor who believes her students teach her more than she teaches them. While Elaine spends most of her days convincing people to go on an adventure of a lifetime, in this post she wants to convince you just how important sleep is to your health!

I am pleased to bring Elaine Clara Mah’s encouraging voice to our Happy Living community.

Do you often work until the wee hours of the night, and then go home to find that though you’re mentally exhausted, getting to sleep is still difficult? The importance of sleep is frequently overlooked, with many people getting less than the optimal eight hours of quality sleep every night. It is a concern because a lack of sleep is extremely harmful to mind and body. Sleep deprivation hinders the ability of the mind to relax, leaving it constantly in a fight or flight state, which affects the general health of the body.

Why is Sleep Important?

As a student, I thought I thrived on less sleep. I spent many nights burning the proverbial midnight oil to finish assignments on time, surviving on a sinful amount of energy drinks. Sure, I finished my work, and I did it well, but I was losing on the health front. I felt lethargic during the day, and when that last can of energy drink was gone, I crashed into bed, only to wake up the next morning feeling even more exhausted.

Getting adequate sleep each day is essential to the human body. Our systems need rest, much like how electronics need recharging. Chronic sleep loss can put us at risk for many health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. A lack of sleep impairs cognitive processes too, including alertness, concentration, and reasoning – skills that we use in our day-to-day lives.

So how do we get a good night’s sleep? Here are four effective tips:

Stick to a Schedule

Create a sleep schedule for yourself. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help regulate your body clock[1], which means you’ll begin falling asleep easier and staying asleep longer.

When possible, make it your practice to go to bed early and then rise early to start your day. Try to get at least eight hours of restful sleep every night; it is linked to being more productive at work.

Start a Relaxing Ritual

A relaxing ritual before bedtime will help you fall asleep easier and get more rest. Relaxing allows the body and mind to accept sleep better because relaxation enables the natural production of melatonin, a neurochemical essential for restful sleep.

You might start a relaxation ritual by dimming the lights, diffusing calming essential oils into the air and turning off all your electronic devices. A meditation practice before sleep will also aid in relaxation. Meditation reduces stress and calms the mind by helping you focus on the present moment, enabling you to let go of any pains and problems that you are holding onto.

Exercise Regularly

A consistent exercise practice is a good way to improve sleep at night as it reduces stress with the release of endorphins and tires you out. Studies show that exercising as little as 10 minutes a day will dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. Regular exercise may also reduce the risk of developing sleep disorders, including restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

Walking and jogging are great exercise choices, but if you’re looking for more vigorous workouts, cycling or martial arts may be the right choice for you. For a practice that creates more relaxation, give yoga nidra[2] a try!

Eat Right

Like it or not, the food you consume plays an equally important role in the quality of sleep that you get at the end of each day. Eating acidic and spicy foods may cause heartburn, which will disrupt sleep. High-fat foods like burgers and fries also affect sleep cycles as they are considered heavy meals, which will result in the digestive system going into overdrive.

Try to minimize your intake of processed foods. They are often difficult to digest, can wreak havoc within your body, and cause sleep disruptions too. Instead, opt for natural choices of vegetables and healthy fats[3].

Elaine, thank you for your excellent and practical advice about how to sleep your way to good health.

Dear reader, if you’d like two more reasons to improve your sleep practice, read why Jennifer Landis, the Mindfulness Mama, says, sleep is the most important exercise for your personal health and fitness!

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