Sleeping Well for Better Health: Tips for A Better Night’s Sleep
As we wait for the threat of frost to pass, and the arrival of warmer weather to allow the installation of our community drinking fountain at Manhasset Park (the culmination of our 2020 NJHCN grant), we focus on encouraging healthy habits in our Long Branch residents and city employees.
A restful and satisfying night’s sleep is vital to good health. This month, in honor of World Sleep Day on March 19th, let’s make a commitment to prioritize our sleep.
Sleep is crucial for your overall health.
Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise to help you function at your best. But when you’re juggling work, kids and everyday life, a good night’s sleep may seem unattainable. In fact, 35% of people feel they don’t get enough sleep. Adults need seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
These three elements are present in quality sleep:
- Continuity – sleep periods should be seamless without interruption.
- Depth – Sleep should be deep enough to be restorative
- Duration – Sleep should last long enough for the sleeper to be refreshed and alert the following day.
Getting a good night’s sleep can also improve your diet and weight.
Proper sleep can increase your willpower to avoid unhealthy foods. Those who sleep only four or five hours a night end up experiencing more hunger and craving sweet foods, leading to consuming more calories and snacking more each day. A study, led by researchers at King’s College London, also demonstrated how proper sleep can increase your willpower to avoid unhealthy foods. Scientists have found that as people lose sleep, they experience physiological changes that can nudge them to seek out junk food. In men, sleep deprivation stimulates increased levels of ghrelin, the so-called hunger hormone, while in women, restricting sleep leads to lower levels of GLP-1, a hormone that signals satiety. “So in men, short sleep promotes greater appetite and desire to eat, and in women there is less of a signal that makes you stop eating,” said Dr. St-Onge. Habitually short sleepers who managed to increase their sleeping hours showed improvements in their diets, including cutting at least two teaspoons of added sugar from their daily diets.
Following the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating such foods as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, seafood, poultry, yogurt, herbs and spices and olive oil, may be a dietary pattern with promise for optimizing better sleep. Large observational studies have found that people who follow this type of dietary pattern are less likely to suffer from insomnia and short sleep, though more research is needed to confirm the correlation.
The takeaway is that diet and sleep are entwined. Improving one can help you improve the other and vice versa, creating a powerful self-renewing positive cycle. “The best way to approach health is to emphasize a healthy diet and healthy sleep. These two very important health behaviors can reinforce each other” states Dr. Susan Redline, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Proper sleep supports your immune system.
As the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations ramps up in New Jersey, there has been a renewed interest in our immune systems. Healthy sleep can support boosting the body’s immune defense and can even help you from getting sick as often. One key benefit of getting enough good sleep is strengthening your immune system to help you prevent or limit infection in your body. Sleep not only increases your immune system function, it also has been shown to play a role in improving antibody responses to vaccinations. This means getting enough sleep before and after you are vaccinated can help vaccines work in your body.
Keep these sleep tips in mind to help you get the sleep you need, especially if you are planning to be vaccinated in the near future.
Quick sleep tips:
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Having a regular sleeping schedule for your body is important.
- Avoid drinking caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
- Stop watching television and using your phone and other electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine to help your brain unwind and recognize that it’s time to sleep. Listen to calming music, read a book or take a warm bath. Try using essential oils. Lavender is widely known as a natural sleep aid because of its calming effect, promoting relaxation and drowsiness.
- Create a sleep-friendly bedroom. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
- Exercise regularly. A low-impact fitness program, like walking, swimming or yoga is helpful for improving sleep.
- Try to sleep the recommended number of hours a night for your age group. The National Sleep Foundation has sleep duration guidelines. NSF recommends 7-9 hours for adults and 7-8 hours for adults over 65.
Make sleep a priority in your life as part of your overall health and well-being, including when you take steps to help protect yourself from infection and illness. Your body will thank you, not just in March, but every month.
If you’re regularly feeling tired upon waking up, or throughout the day, you may be experiencing some underlying issues. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
The National Sleep Foundation; https://www.thensf.org/
How Foods May Affect Our Sleep; by Anahad O’Connor, December 10, 2020, New York Times
Live Well Work Well newsletter, March 2020; City of Long Branch
About the Grantee
The City of Long Branch Health Department is the lead organization for a partnership alliance of community groups and agencies serving residents. The goal of the grant and alliance is to improve healthy eating and nutrition and increase physical exercising such as walking and biking. Benefits of such activities are weight control, improvement in physical, mental and spiritual well being.