Build Your Sleep Confidence
by Krishna Dholakia, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN
Sleep. When we get enough of it, we feel great! When we don’t, our moods and our behavior can deteriorate. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), irregular sleep patterns (defined by sleep that deviates from the seven- to nine-hour nightly norm) is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Getting enough, good quality sleep is a part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Here are some tips that may help improve your bedtime habits:
- Set a consistent sleep routine. Train your body’s internal clock by going to bed and waking up at the same time.
- Create a relaxing pre-sleep routine. An hour before you go to sleep, try to engage in activities that are soothing for the mind and body. For example, take a bath, meditate, or listen to a guided meditation, ground yourself through centering prayer, practice gentle yoga, or write in a journal.
- Avoid stimulating or stressful activities. For instance, stay away from computer screens and other electronic devices close to your bedtime. Remember that light is a powerful cue that signals wakefulness in our brain. Also avoid difficult conversations and vigorous exercise late at night.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. These beverages both jolt the nervous system and disrupt our sleep cycle.
- Dine early. Eating a healthy, reasonably portioned meal several hours before bedtime can help avoid indigestion that could have you tossing and turning.
- Make your bedroom your slumber zone. Ensure that it is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature (between 60- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit). Consider blackout curtains and be sure to invest in a comfortable mattress, pillows, and sheets. You deserve it!
- Prioritize stress management. Engage in healthy behaviors during the day, such as speaking to a therapist and practicing techniques like mindfulness that help reduce stress.
- Practice compassion. If you improve your bedtime habits and have some nights where you still have a hard time falling asleep, don’t beat yourself up. Forgive the situation and take care of yourself by finding moments of rest throughout the day.
To learn more about sleep and other healthy behaviors, visit the resilience and nutrition course on CPG’s eLearning site.
Krishna Dholakia is the Senior Health Education Specialist on Church Pension Group’s (CPG’s) Education & Wellness team. She is a registered dietitian and a 500-hour certified yoga instructor.