Remember this Formula: Better Rest = Better Health!

We are huge advocates of keeping the body healthy. We practice daily physical movement including cardio, strength, flexibility, dance and qigong. And as important as movement and diet are for the body – SLEEP is equally important! Many of us have given up precious moments of sleep in an effort to “get ahead” but in reality it drastically lowers our performance levels, causes weight gain and irritability, and premature aging! (Yikes – let’s all take a nap right now!!)

Lack of sleep leads to a whole host of possible health problems – such as heart disease, obesity, depression, high blood pressure, forgetfulness, lower sex drive, impaired judgment and reduces productivity.

Here are 10 simple tips for a better night’s sleep:

1. Move around more during the day. Regular physical activity promotes better sleep — helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper levels of sleep. But just like you don’t want to eat right before bedtime, you may not want to exercise right before you try to sleep.  Since energetic movement wakes up and energizes the body, you may not want to exercise right before you try and sleep… while exercising earlier in the day can help you sleep… it can have the opposite effect if your timing is off.  If you are exercising late at night and notice a problem falling asleep, try exercising earlier.

2. Don’t make your stomach work while you’re resting
A full stomach keeps your digestive system working and awake when it should be resting and recovering. Also eating foods that are “stimulating” (like hot peppers, alcohol, and coffee) can cause a spike in your nervous system and your liver for hours after you eat so make sure to enjoy those earlier in the day. You don’t want to go to bed hungry enough to wake you up or full enough that you are still digesting while you are trying to sleep.  Either way it can cause you enough discomfort to wake you up.

3. Go to sleep every night at 10:30 P.M. (or close to it).
It is believed that 10:30 P.M. is the best time for a full cycle of sleep. In Eastern medicine, it is recognized that at 11:00 the restorative, receptive Qi is at its strongest.  So being asleep at that time enables the body to store more active, creative energy to use during the day.  You can also try doing an evening Qigong session right before bed to help facilitate this. (If your work schedule doesn’t allow a 10:30pm bedtime then try to maintain a consistent schedule… going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This will help reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and help promote better sleep at night.)

4. Watch what you drink before bed
If you drink very cold water right before bed, your body has to work extra hard to heat it up. That can throw your body into overdrive and make it harder to go to sleep. Also don’t drink right before bed. Also limit the AMOUNT that you drink… those middle-of-the-night bathroom trips can disrupt what could have been a great sleep!

5. Walk Around Barefoot and Give Yourself a Foot Massage.
Walking around barefoot balances the energy in the body and helps to clear your mind.  It also massages the massage points in your feet correlated with sleep. It’s amazing how a simple foot massage (you can do it yourself or get your spouse to do it) can help you become more relaxed and calm. TIP:  If you have trouble massaging your own feet, you can freeze a small bottle of water and use it as a massaging foot-roller – it’s also great for aches and inflammation!

6. Keep the Room Dark.
If you can clearly see your hand if you hold it in front of your face, then your room is not dark enough. Try to remove any electronics in your room that have bright lights, to make the room darker. Also, recent studies have indicated that the LED displays on tablet computers and e-readers have a negative effect on sleep if you use them right before bed.  Maybe whatever you’re doing can wait for the morning?

7. Meditate right before bed.
Rather than tossing and turning when you’re trying to go to sleep, get up and meditate. You can even practice meditation while sitting in bed. If nothing else, following your breath while you meditate will help bring your attention away from any anxious thoughts. Don’t over-think it… even the simplest, most basic meditation will work for this.

8. Try green tea instead of coffee.
Overall, drinking green tea is a lot better for you than coffee. Green tea is very high in antioxidants. It has less then half the amount of caffeine than coffee has, so you’ll have to drink much more of it to disturb your sleep.

9. LET yourself relax!
Stress is often a great contributor to sleep disorders.  Which is a vicious cycle because the less you sleep, the more stressed out you feel!  When you have too much to do, too much to think about, and you just “can’t turn off your brain”… your sleep is likely to suffer. Don’t just let yourself lay there and THINK!  You are training your brain that this is what going to sleep IS for you.  If you find yourself going over your “to-dos” for the next day, get up, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. A consistent Qigong or meditation practice is the best way to let go of stress and restore peace to your life – and it trains you to more easily find that still silent place in your head that you need to fall asleep.

10. Limit daytime sleeping and nodding-off on the sofa
Naps during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you need to nap, then keep it short – closer to 10-30 minutes in the middle of the day.

Of course, if you work nights, you need to reverse this – no naps outside of your normal sleeping hours. Also, when you sleep, be sure to keep your windows covered to keep it dark. Otherwise, the light can interfere with your internal clock.

That’s it!   These are the top things you can try for a better night’s sleep.  Of course, you don’t have to do all of them.  Try one of them at a time until you get the night’s rest you are looking for.

Wishing you a restful night and beautiful dreams,