Sleep Well to Age Well
One of the greatest commitments we can make to wellbeing and self-care is to get enough sleep. And, if you’re like me, you know that is sometimes much easier said than done.
Work, business travel, family needs, social commitments, and even vacation travel can interfere with our sleep needs. And, if you cut corners, you’ll certainly feel it the next day. There’s just not going to be enough oomph to get you where you want to go. You don’t need to scour the scientific research to know that a poor night of sleep can have an effect on how you feel all day long.
In fact, that’s one of our main wishes when it comes to wanting to feel better and stronger. We all want to wake up refreshed, clear, and full of energy—and not feeling that fog that we know won’t lift as the day wears on.
Even if you do plan for enough hours of sleep, there are all kinds of things that can disrupt your sleep—a partner snoring, hormonal imbalances stresses that weigh on you, or not properly shutting down to prepare for sleep. And not getting restorative sleep has an effect not just on your fatigue levels, but also on your overall health. Lack of high-quality sleep is associated with many long-term health issues, including brain and heart conditions.
Studies also show that getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep can decrease your metabolism, leading to weight gain and making weight loss even harder.
Over the years, I’ve learned the best ways to make sure I get quality sleep, even when taxing schedules can make it difficult. This approach means you need to think about the foods you eat (avoiding carbs that make your energy levels fluctuate) and your activity (regular exercise, and not too close to bedtime). You also should practice good sleep hygiene—powering down devices at least 30 minutes before bed is the biggie. Sleep is the time when important cellular processes are happening to keep you young and healthy. So when you skimp on sleep, you’re speeding up the aging process.
But on days when you just can’t get enough, or you spend all night tossing and turning, you can still try to salvage your energy levels the next day. These three are my favorite approaches to giving myself a jolt when I need it the most—or preparing myself to get better sleep during the night ahead.
Practice Mental Flossing
This is about keeping your brain “uncluttered,” which lets you fall asleep without all those random thoughts running through your head. Try these practices during the day and before bed if a busy mind is keeping you from sleeping well:
- Help yourself to an attitude check first thing in the morning and again before you retire for the night: focus on what’s feeling good in your body, as opposed to what’s aching or bothering you. Flood your thoughts with the positive to crowd out the negative. It’s incredible how restoring those positive thoughts can be.
- Keep a small notepad nearby. When something is bothering you, write it down. Transferring it out of your brain and onto paper can help relax your mind and take the weight off your shoulders.
- Try alternate nostril breathing or what the yogi’s call Nadi Shodhana. Studies support this ancient practice’s effect on activating your body’s parasympathetic mode—the state of being where rest and healing take place. To do it, hold your right nostril closed and breathe slowly through your left nostril for five long counts. Then, plug the left nostril and slowly exhale out of your right one. Repeat for a count of five. Do this anytime during the day you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or anxious.
You can trick yourself into feeling more energetic just by simply adjusting your posture and body language. Try these when you need an instant energy boost:
- Adjust your posture to sit or stand so your spine is upright. Or strike your best “Superwoman” pose. Literally, look the part of strength and purpose even if you feel like curling up in the fetal position.
- Sometimes I can’t fit a 30-minute run in my day, but I’m desperate for that energy boost. Just a 15-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session is enough to perk me up and get my metabolism going. Plus, research shows that intervals are the ultimate exercise for regulating your weight, hormones, and inflammation, so it is a win-win if you are pressed for time but want the best results.
- It’s also smart to make sure you don’t get too complacent wherever you are. If your day requires a lot of sitting, set an alarm to make sure to get up every 20 or 30 minutes to take a quick walk, move around, or do a light stretch. Consistent movement is important for your metabolism, and it’s also good for your energy levels.
Food to The Rescue
Literally, eat your way to a serene mind and enjoy focus and clarity throughout your day. If you’re eating keto, then you won’t experience the ups and downs that happen when you have blood sugar surges after eating carbs. If you’re not, you need to be careful that you don’t reach for sugary snacks when you’re feeling fatigued. They may give you a quick jolt, but it’s only temporary. Keep your energy level up by focusing on high-fat and moderate protein (and a small percentage of high-quality carbs). In addition, you can try these when you want to feel more grounded and in control of your day:
- Indulge in slow-cooked grass-fed meats for carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid to fuel your mitochondria—your body’s energy factory.
- Eat a small bedtime snack 10 minutes before bed. Skip the protein, nosh on fiber-rich carbs and healthy fats instead. Try some avocado with a few banana slices. I adore the luscious creaminess when I mix both together. A couple of spoonfuls before bed feels really luxurious and soothes me to sleep.
A little planning can go a long way to make these tips become healthful habits. Try them and see what helps. Practicing self-care is the key to aging well and being your best self to everyone around you. Here’s wishing you a great night’s sleep!