6 Unusual Ways to Get Better ZZZ’s
6 Unusual Ways to Get Better ZZZ’s
The holidays—we love ‘em, but the bustle of shopping and family gatherings make this time notorious for revving up our stress levels. This increase in stress can ignite a host of biochemical changes that may contribute to poor sleep, which can in turn lead to even more stress and anxiety— a vicious cycle!
As we know, proper sleep is crucial to ensuring we function most effectively in our waking lives, whether we are at the office or submerged in the festivities of the holidays. Getting a good night’s rest can help us to regenerate our mind and bodies, ultimately leading to more energy, greater productivity and improved overall well-being. Not to mention, studies indicate that those who snooze for more than 6 hours per night may be less likely to succumb to sickness when exposed to a cold virus - something to keep in mind as we aim to preserve our sick days during this cold and flu season!
In light of this hectic time, we’ve shared a few suggestions to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling most merry and bright!
- Catch some rays
Shouldn’t we be talking about the moon, not the sun, you say? Not necessarily! Exposure to sunlight during the day can improve sleep at night; natural light promotes the production of a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms, melatonin, at nightfall. We know it’s wintertime, but to the extent possible, take a walk over your lunch break or find creative ways to catch some rays throughout the day - pave the way to a restful sleep!
- Lose the booze
Although sources indicate that a whopping 10% of adults use alcohol as a sleeping aid, boozy beverages can lead to complex interactions with sleep processes. Sure, tipping the holiday cocktail glass may help you to drift off more easily; however, after the alcohol is metabolized, it tends to create fragmented sleep, making it more likely that you’ll wake up later in the night. Furthermore, alcohol has been shown to decrease REM sleep, the stage that’s associated with dreams and deep, restorative rest. Skip the drinks for a better slumber!
- Kiwis, kiwis, kiwis!
Consider replacing the nightcap with a night-time snack. We say this with caution as we know that a bedtime treat may cause indigestion; however, for some, a bite 2-4 hours before hitting the hay may prove to be beneficial. Why is this so? Essential vitamins and minerals and/or foods that promote the production of serotonin and melatonin contribute to relaxation and better sleep. Serotonin-boosting snacks may include kiwis, bananas, pecans, walnuts, plums and high-fiber carbohydrates like rice or oatmeal. Melatonin-containing foods consist of tart cherries, flaxseed, olives, orange bell peppers, and raspberries. Or, you may opt for a treat high in tryptophan (another serotonin-booster), such as a small slice of that leftover holiday party turkey or a short glass of warm, organic dairy milk.
Note that not just any ‘ole snack will do - simple carbs, sweets and processed foods are stimulating to the nervous system and may tamper with the secretion of melatonin. We also encourage a whole foods diet high in fiber and healthy fats throughout the day; this pattern will help to keep blood sugar and cortisol levels in balance, promoting restorative sleep. Prep healthy meals for the work day and snack smart at night!
- Soak in Epsom salts
As a driver in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, magnesium is, needless to say, an extremely important mineral! Among the many benefits, magnesium use can prove to be a gentle means to relax the muscles and the nervous system. Aside from consuming magnesium-rich foods (like nuts, legumes, dark green vegetables, and seafood) or using one of our favorite relaxation supplements, there’s another way to raise magnesium levels in the body - enjoy a bath! Add two cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the tub and relax for at least 12 minutes. Partake in this ritual at least 2-3 times per week to achieve maximum effects!
- Stop thinking and start journaling
If you find yourself lying awake at night, perhaps mulling over a work project or the upcoming holiday errands, keep a notepad at your bedside. Jot down a to-do list or journal about any fears or worries you might have. Then, tuck that pad away and let your mind drift off into a restorative state, free from racing thoughts that don’t serve you. It sounds simple, but once these ideas are on paper, it becomes much easier to put them aside, opening up space for some quality ZZZ’s.
- Take a journey with mental imagery
Mental imagery is a very powerful tool that can be applied to a vast array of endeavors, including stress reduction and sleep! What exactly is mental imagery? Well, there are many different variations. Some might prefer a more self-directed approach, which involves consciously creating images for relaxation. Others may choose a more guided route that follows a series of suggestions -either via a recording or with the help of an instructor or counselor- to help access inner wisdom and promote self-care. As a first step, we recommend checking out a few visualizations for restorative sleep, which were created by Leslie Davenport, a pioneer in the field of guided imagery in integrative medicine. May the visualizations guide you into a deep, blissful sleep, setting the foundation for an optimal day ahead!
We have more tips to help you through the holidays!
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